The article can be found here:
I will cut and paste the body, but recommend the page because of all the extra tips, statistics and other extras that were attached with this story. They really did a good job holding these malls' feet to the fire about their phony "feel good" security. It seems the Boca Raton double homocide that unrequited posted was just the tip of the iceberg.
Here is the story. Emphasis mine.
By Brian Haas and Jaclyn Giovis | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
May 18, 2008
Almost once a week, a shopper finds herself face-to-face with a bad guy at a South Florida mall. And in nearly one of four cases, he's got a gun.
Eileen Cobb had just parked at Coral Square Mall in Coral Springs when a robber hiding behind two cars surprised her.
Tiffany Acosta was with her 10-year-old daughter and talking on her cell phone when a young man pulled a gun on her in the parking lot at Pembroke Lakes Mall in Pembroke Pines.
Ashley Rose Young was seven months pregnant when two teens pulled her from her car, threw her to the ground and stole her purse at Town Center at Boca Raton."You go out thinking that you're just going to the mall," Young said. "But you don't think your whole life is going to change."
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel analyzed the most violent crimes at South Florida malls over five years and found:
• Women are most likely to be targeted, and some robbers prey on mothers with children.
• Most crimes occur in daylight.
• Parking lots and garages are the most dangerous places at a mall, but security is often concentrated inside the mall.
• In four of five cases, surveillance cameras were non-existent, broken, or captured only flawed and useless images.
• In three of four cases, a suspect is not arrested or even identified.
From 2003 through 2007, more than 22,000 crimes were reported at 13 major malls in Broward, Palm Beach and north Miami-Dade counties, from Aventura to Palm Beach Gardens. Shoplifting and car burglaries were by far the most common incidents.
There were 508 violent crimes. About half of those involved scuffles between patrons, or between shoplifters and store loss prevention officers. The Sun-Sentinel focused on the other half — the most serious attacks on shoppers and mall employees.
Most mall companies declined to discuss specific cases or reveal details of their security programs, but all said security is a top priority.
"This is not your fly-by-night watch guard service," said John Petruzzi, vice president of corporate security for Simon Property Group, which owns 240 malls, including Town Center, Coral Square, Boynton Beach Mall, Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise and the Palm Beach Mall in West Palm Beach.
Determining which South Florida mall is most dangerous is difficult because of differences in foot traffic, crime in surrounding communities and other factors. But no mall has been immune to problems.
"We like to think of malls as refuges and places of calm but that's not reality, because they're wide open and they're part of the community," said Jonathan Lusher, managing partner for IPC International, a security company serving more than 400 U.S. malls, including at least five malls in South Florida.
Extremely violent attacks are unusual, but do occur. In December, Nancy Bochicchio and her 7-year-old daughter, Joey, were found murdered at Town Center. In two cases two years apart at Coral Square, a teen and a young woman were abducted from the parking lot and raped.
The crime a South Florida shopper is most likely to face is robbery, typically a purse snatching, and some are more violent than others. Robbers confronted women with children at least nine times over the five-year period, including two cases at Pembroke Lakes in 2006, when a gunman threatened to shoot the children if the women did not comply with his demands.
More typical is Cobb's 2006 purse snatching at Coral Square. She was late for work that morning, and picking up a Christmas gift for her husband. When the young man demanded she get back into her car, "I didn't even know what was happening to me," said Cobb, 60, of Coral Springs. "I just said 'no' incredulously and stepped away."
He grabbed her purse. She turned to run and fell. A witness got a tag number, and an 18-year-old was arrested.
Today, Cobb carries fewer credit cards and parks far from clusters of cars, so there's no place for assailants to hide. "This is what life is today," she said. "You have to be aware."
Mall robbers strike fast, often working in pairs. They sometimes stump investigators by hitting malls in different cities and using, then ditching, stolen getaway cars.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Capt. Greg Richter, whose jurisdiction includes the Wellington mall, said there's usually little evidence and no relationship between robber and victim, so it takes time to see a crook's pattern. "So it's a who-done-it," Richter said. "The suspect will have a chance to repeat the crime before we get a chance to catch them."
Victims must pay attention, police say, and memorize details — ideally, license plate numbers — for investigators to pursue.
Surveillance cameras provide another key investigative tool, said Fort Lauderdale Police Sgt. Mike Nahum: "Video in court is unbeatable."
Yet 83 percent of South Florida's most violent mall crimes either aren't captured on video or the video quality is too poor to be useful, the Sun-Sentinel found.
Most malls do not have security cameras monitoring their parking areas. A few malls do: Cameras are clearly visible in lots and garages at Aventura Mall, and in covered garages at Pembroke Lakes. Town Center has visible cameras on the outside of its parking garages, but not inside. At The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, about 50 cameras are split between common areas inside and parking lots, said Gary Frechette, director of security at The Gardens.
Malls occasionally erect mobile police observation towers to deter crime, and some large retailers have security cameras outside.
No camera caught two robbers punching Joyce Lichtenstein, 55, as she got out of her car in a handicapped space at The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale in 2004. The robbers chipped two of her teeth and sent a stream of blood from her nose before running off with her purse.
It remains unclear whether anyone was watching the Saks Fifth Avenue security monitors that captured images of the men casing the store entrance for at least 20 minutes before the attack, a police report shows. A Saks employee later told police she had noticed the men "loitering by the lobby area."
No one stopped them. There were no cameras in the garage to capture the attack itself, and there are none there today.
No one was arrested in the attack. Officials from The Galleria and its security company, Valor Security Services, declined to comment on the case. Lichtenstein is suing both companies.
At Coral Square, there were no cameras to capture the parking lot abductions of a 21-year-old in 2003 and a 17-year-old in 2005, both forced into vehicles, driven away and raped repeatedly. Both have sued the mall and its security company at the time, Control Security Services.
The teen was walking from the mall at 7 p.m. when the gunman struck, forcing her into her car and driving her to his apartment.
Where were Coral Square security guards?
All but one had rushed to the Big Tomato restaurant where managers feared a fired employee might start a fight, according to depositions in the lawsuit. The sole guard assigned to the parking lot that day, age 71, was nowhere to be found for four hours during his shift.
A suspect was arrested and awaits trial. The teen's civil case against the mall could go to trial this month, said her attorney, Bradley Winston.
In the earlier abduction at Coral Square, the woman was forced into a van by two men, driven around and raped. No one was arrested and the woman agreed to a confidential settlement of her civil suit, said her attorney, Barry Roderman.
Simon Property Group and Control Security Services, declined comment on the lawsuits. "They're unfortunate events," Petruzzi said. "They're very unfortunate events."
One former South Florida mall security director says some owners give shoppers a false sense of security. Michele Poling, head of security at Town Center from 2000 to 2002 then at Coral Square until March 2005, said it was common for both malls to under-staff parking lots.
Poling said she submitted her resignation before the attack on the 17-year-old, and her scheduled last day was the day of the rape. In the teen's lawsuit, Poling testified that she pleaded for more security to combat ongoing crime, but was repeatedly ignored. "They were more concerned with the appearance of security rather than actually having a safe environment," Poling said in a recent interview. "What came back from Simon corporate was it wasn't a good idea to put cameras in the mall because it could be a liability."
There are no cameras visible in the Coral Square lot today.
Mall security guards don't carry guns. They are trained to call police and protect themselves and shoppers by keeping a safe distance from criminals and violent situations, those in the industry say.
"Their primary responsibility is to observe and report," said Frechette, the security director at The Gardens. "Ninety percent of their job is customer service, giving directions, giving escorts and just being there."Retail crimes such as shoplifting are handled by each store's loss prevention employees. Like mall security guards, loss prevention officers typically follow no-chase policies with suspects in an effort to minimize injuries, security officials say.
Frechette said mall guards are "the first line of defense" and work closely with police and play a key role controlling gangs, shoplifters and loitering teenagers.
Frechette was the only South Florida mall security official who would discuss specific placement of guards. He said his mall deploys six officers, about one third of its 20 guards, outside the mall.
The Gardens handles its own security, but most South Florida malls contract with security companies that specialize in shopping centers.
Petruzzi said Simon partners with three security companies in South Florida — IPC, Valor and Control. He said mall managers meet regularly with local police, and the company constantly reviews anti-crime measures and has made "multimillion dollar-investments in South Florida [security] in the past 12 months."
Experts say that shoppers must be vigilant. "You have to treat it like a hostile environment, unfortunately," said Los Angeles mall security consultant Chris McGoey.
Marie Fletcher, 84, heard the footsteps running up behind her and froze as she climbed out of her car at Coral Ridge Theater in Fort Lauderdale in May 2005.
The man shoved her back into the front seat while yanking hard on her purse, then jumped into a waiting black Nissan and sped off.
Fletcher knew she'd never remember the license plate number, so she focused on the make, model and color. The next day, she read a news item on a similar attack in Boca Raton, called police there, and helped investigators link the clues.
Fletcher's assailant, convicted in her case and others, is scheduled for release in 2015.
"I'll never forget it. The guy who snatched my purse just turned and grinned at me," recalled Fletcher, now 86. "I just made sure I got a very, very good look at that car."
Staff Writers Macollvie Jean-François, Tim Collie, Jerome Burdi, Leon Fooksman, Paula McMahon, Nancy Othón, Sofia Santana and Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
There's so much wrong with this way of thinking, that security guards are your "first line of defense". How backwards. When did we become such a helpless society when your first line of defense is not yourself. You'll find out rather quickly how far "hopes and dreams" will get you while you're waiting for a 71-year old security guard whose major purpose is "directions and customer service" to come and save you from being raped in the back of a van. And people have the stupidity to ask me why I need a gun.