Crime at Valley malls: Finding the naughty and not so nice

Crime at Valley malls: Finding the naughty and not so nice

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Have you finished your holiday shopping yet?  If not, then you'll be spending a lot of time at the mall. But which valley mall is the safest? 

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

It's not so wonderful if you're the victim of a crime.

"There are people there that will prey on innocent victims," said Tempe Police Sgt. Mike Pooley.

At valley malls, you'll find the naughty and the not so nice.

'He knows exactly what he wants.  He knows exactly what he's going to do," said Pooley.

We wanted to know how much crime there really is at four of the valley's biggest malls.

We requested calls for service at Scottsdale Fashion Square, Metrocenter, Paradise Valley and Arizona Mills malls.  They show thousands of calls in the last 13 months.

It's important to point out that calls for service mean only that police responded to a complaint.  We don't know how many arrests were made, if any, or if it was a false alarm.

But we found robbery calls, indecent exposure, sex abuse, and aggravated assaults -- all reported at the mall and provided by police.

To our surprise: Arizona Mills in Tempe had the most calls and the most serious types of calls.  Metrocenter in Phoenix had the least.

The most calls by far were for shoplifting.  Take a look at the surveillance video which shows dozens of people stealing from department stores -- mothers even stealing -- as they walk around with their kids.

Arizona Mills had the most shoplifting calls: 183 in 13 months -- about one police call every two days.  Paradise Valley Mall came in second, Scottsdale Fashion Square third, Metrocenter had the fewest shoplifting calls 35 -- in 13-months or one every 12 days.  Tempe Police are working crack down on shoplifting at Arizona Mills.

They gave us video of a serial shoplifter they're trying to catch. "..gets all the perfume, cologne that he needs within a matter of seconds," said Pooley.

Shoplifters aren't the only ones who use the mall to break the law.  Sometimes flashers also go to the mall to expose themselves to innocent victims.

Metrocenter had three indecent exposure calls. Paradise Valley, Arizona Mills, and Scottsdale Fashion Square had two each.

The good news is no sexual assaults reported in 13 months at the four valley malls.

But there were 16 assaults or physical attacks at Arizona Mills, 12 at Metrocenter, 10 at Scottsdale Fashion Square; only six at Paradise Valley Mall.

As for robberies and thefts, robbery involves using force to steal something from someone.

There were three robbery calls at Arizona Mills and Metrocenter, two robbery calls at Paradise Valley Mall and Scottsdale Fashion Square.

Theft may include things like breaking into a person's car to steal their purse or taking off with a shopping bag that's been left behind.

240 thefts calls at Arizona Mills, followed by 50 theft calls at Paradise Valley Mall, 49 at Scottsdale Fashion Square and 41 at Metrocenter.

"The perceptions of the late 80s and 90s and the crime issues that were there you wont be able to find those kind of issues right now," said Phoenix Police Lt. Ben Leuschner.

Increased police presence and the mall's state of the art camera system helped them achieve their goal.

"He knows when you've been sleeping... he's knows when you're awake..."

The resolution is actually high enough to pick up license plates and that's recorded 24/7.. when we do have a crime on the property, it's very easy for us to follow up right away," said Leuschner.

Tempe Police are also working to reduce crime at Arizona Mills. Police say crime numbers are higher at Mills because of its location. The mall sits right off of Interstate 10, and the U.S. 60 -- bordering south Phoenix, Tempe, and Guadalupe. It makes for an easy getaway.  In minutes, a criminal can be in a different jurisdiction making them harder to catch.

"Seven days a week, they split the shifts and they are there constantly," said Pooley.

And no matter what mall you go to this holiday season, chances are you'll see officers or security guards walking around. Police say our malls here in the valley are pretty safe.  The number of crimes reported are low compared to the tens of thousands of people who go in and out of the mall everyday.

We asked all four malls for comment, only one mall representative did respond -- but we have not received a written statement they said they would provide.

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