After a brawl at Woodland Mall last year during the holiday season, Kentwood Police have stepped up their patrols. Documents obtained by FOX 17 through the Freedom of Information Act indicate police efforts may be making an impact there.
“The whole mall was on lock down,” said Sara Heise, a former Eddie Bauer employee, of last year’s fracas. “The police were there, it was scary and I was terrified.”
Security video captured the chaos at the mall the day after Christmas in 2011. Heise said the situation in the mall was becoming more and more frightening.
“I was actually fearful for my life,” said Heise, who was shopping when she suddenly found herself in harm’s way. “There was glass flying everywhere, they shut the store, I thought I was like locked in there. I thought there was, like, gunfire, but it wasn`t. It was apparently just things hitting glass or walls or floors.”
The scene afterward was intense for her as well.
“When I walked back, there were people arm to arm, standing like this … watching,” says Heise.
“We had some issues the day after Christmas last year and we expanded our presence as a result of that,” said retired Kentwood Police Chief Richard Mattice.
Until last year’s fight, Kentwood PD only had one or two officers inside the mall because of limited resources, said Mattice. However, after the fight, that immediately changed. “We have as many as three, foot patrol officers assigned physically to that mall, and we have experienced some dramatic decreases,” said Heise.
“Right now, we don`t have a problem there” because of extra patrols, said Mattice. “They have really effective security at the mall.”
The security office has nearly 50 cameras scanning inside and out. Employees also patrol the parking lot.
Statistics from police logs obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show some crime at Woodland Mall did drop from the last few months of 2011 and in 2012 through September.
Last Christmas season alone there were at least 14 reports of disorderly people. The calls on disruptive patrons went down by 54% in 2012 compared to the last few months of 2011.
“Some days of the week have gone down by as much as 87%, so it makes a big difference,” said Mattice.
There were seven assaults reported in November and December last year but only six in so far in 2012.
Assaults at the mall in 2012 are down 81% compared to 2011.
There were two sexual assaults reported in 2012, but they were not serious. Mattice said one took place at a bus stop outside the mall when a man grabbed a woman’s rear and jumped on a bus to escape. In the second, a woman in the mall told police a man she may have known before touched her inappropriately.
All crime at the mall dropped dramatically except shoplifting. “Last year, on the day after Thanksgiving, we had 10 retail frauds in Woodland Mall,” said Mattice. There were more than 100 reports of shoplifting in the call logs from October through December 2011. In 2010, there was a similar number.
“It`s very busy; criminals tend to take advantage of that.” However, overall the mall is safe. Many shoppers feel the same way, said Mattice.
“We never had any incidents, no,” says Abby Warmington, a fan of the Woodland Mall. “I enjoy going there.”
Even Sara Heise, who was frightened by the mall brawl, said she’d shop there again, citing the increased police presence as a step in the right direction.
Mattice says having more police stationed at the mall is actually a positive for the community. He says they are able to interact with people on a positive basis as well and build community relations that way. Since the holidays are a busy time.
However, crime typically goes up during the busy holiday season. It will be interesting to see if the downward trend of assaults and disorderly conduct continues to drop with the extra officers as we enter this year’s holiday shopping season.
We wanted to get a comment from the mall, but we did not hear back from them as of the broadcast Tuesday.