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2 Investigators: Is Your Mall Safe?

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Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Pam Zekman serves on CBS 2 Chicago’s...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a time for giving, but sadly it can also be a time for taking by criminals such as pickpockets, shoplifters, car thieves and muggers.

CBS 2 Investigators give you a crime report card on some of the areas most popular shopping centers. Pam Zekman reports, for the first time recent shootings at shopping malls have sparked extra security precautions.

A Kenyan mall massacre. A gunman terrorizes New Jersey mall shoppers.

These frightening events have prompted the FBI to reach out this holiday season to suburban police and mall security for special training sessions.

Orland Park Police chief Timothy McCarthy said, “Coordination of law enforcement and resources in this day and age is key to success. We’re never going to make these things go away, but again, they are rare.”

The types of crimes you’re likely to encounter in a shopping mall could happen as soon as you park your car.

At Oakbrook Center, one man was gone just 15 minutes when the window was smashed. His laptop gone. His reaction?

“Pure anger,” he said. “They’re spying on cars parking and people walking away from their car.”

Police reports we obtained detail hundreds of crimes that occurred between thanksgiving and News Years eve last year at nine suburban shopping malls including burglary, criminal damage and thefts.

Woodfield had the most with 161 reports, followed by Gurnee Mills with 155 and Orland Square with 138.

Some of the crimes were caught by security cameras.

One guy at a jewelry counter puts down a shopping bag and walks off. A woman spots the bag and takes it.

Another video shows a shopper in a white coat hanging her purse on a rack. Then a woman in pink eyes the purse, grabs it and leaves.

Security experts say professional thieves size up shoppers.

Chief McCarthy said, “They’re walking through shopping centers, restaurants, retail stores, simply looking for crimes of opportunity.”

Last year’s holiday stats for other malls include Yorktown with 100 incidents. Fox Valley with 76, and Old Orchard with 63.

Here’s what we saw. At Oakbrook, a purse left on a bench. At Yorktown, shopping bags left at a store entrance. At Fox Valley, a backpack and laptop left unattended. At Old Orchard purses hung over the backs of chairs.

A bad idea?

Erica Huff with Oak Brook Police said, “Very bad. Pickpockets will look for purses on the back of chairs because that is an easy target.”

We also counted crimes in Chicago shopping areas. Records show 191 crimes on a 7-block stretch of State Street, 79 percent of them between Randolph and Monroe.

And on the Mag Mile: 159 crimes, almost half in the 800 block of Michigan Avenue that includes Water Tower Place.

“They will look for somebody that’s an easy target. The best thing you can do is make yourself a hard target,” said Sgt. John Nebl with Schaumburg Police.

How? Among other things, keep your purses closed and close. Don’t lose sight of your belongings. If you put packages in your car to go back and shop, move your car to another spot so if someone is watching you they’ll think you left.

We should note that the police had high praise for the shopping centers’ cooperation and security efforts.

Number of incident reports from Nov. 22, 2012 – Dec. 31, 2012:

  • Woodfield (Schaumburg) – 161 incidents, including: retail theft; theft; burglary from vehicle; motor vehicle theft; disturbance; credit card fraud; criminal damage & trespass.
  • Gurnee Mills (Gurnee) – 155 incidents, including: retail theft; theft, burglary, battery, fight, disturbance.
  • Orland Square (Orland Park) – 138 incidents, including: retail theft; battery, theft; criminal damage; stolen car; burglary from vehicle; deceptive practices.
  • Yorktown (Lombard) – 100 incidents, including retail theft; theft; battery; aggravated battery; resisting, obstruct, disarm officer; burglary from vehicle.
  • Fox Valley (Aurora) – 76 incidents, including: retail theft; theft; battery; resisting an officer.
  • Ford City Mall (Chicago) – 66 incidents, including: larceny theft; aggravated assault; motor vehicle theft; assault; battery; fraud.
  • Old Orchard (Skokie) – 63 incidents, including: retail theft; theft; burglary from vehicle; ID theft; disorderly conduct; credit card fraud.
  • Oakbrook Center (Oak Brook) – 53 incidents, including: retail theft; theft; burglary from vehicle; battery; ID theft; forgery; fraud; assault; criminal damage.
  • Water Tower Place (Chicago) – 37 incidents, including: larceny theft; fraud.
  • Promenade Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook) – 28 incidents, including: shoplifting; motor vehicle theft; theft; criminal damage; disorderly conduct.
  • Chicago Premium Outlets (Aurora) – 8 incidents, including: retail theft; theft; burglary; battery.
  • 900 N. Michigan (Chicago) – 8 incidents, including: larceny theft; fraud.
  • Geneva Commons (Geneva) – 5 incidents, including: retail theft; theft.
  • 520 N. Michigan: Shops at North Bridge (Chicago) 2 incidents, including: larceny theft.

Michigan Ave. (Oak St. to River) & State St. (Lake to Jackson) crime breakdown from Nov. 22 – Dec. 31, 2012

  • Michigan Ave .(159 — 30 or 18 percent — in 600 block; 78 or 49 percent– in 800 block)
  • State St (191 — 152 or 79 percent between Randolph & Monroe)
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