Independence Police: Mall safety perceptions have to be treated as real

Tips are flooding in about Saturday's shooting inside Independence Center.
Independence police said that could help them arrest someone soon.

A gunman shot two teenagers in the crowded mall after an argument between two groups.

Two days later, police said they are also working with the mall on another perpetrator: safety perceptions.

A violent crime, even if it is just one violent crime, can make customers feel like they are unsafe.

However, Independence police report crime in their town has declined.

But that does not matter.  Developers said what people perceive is reality for business.

Shopper Katie Ervin is like several shoppers NBC Action News has heard from.

Ervin said she is not sure she would go to Independence Center to do her shopping anymore.

Ervin was honest in her feelings, "Seems like things have happen and then, nothing gets done and it's still happening. When we heard about the shooting on Saturday I told my, I said "I would never go there"."
But Independence police want to reassure her and others that crime is not on the increase at Independence Center.

They said one violent event can happen anywhere. In fact, serious crime has occurred at Oak Park Mall's parking lot when a gunman tried to carjack a shopper. A shooting occurred in 2010 at the Country Club Plaza when the Mayor was there and at Ward Parkway Mall when a random gunman went on a shooting spree that killed three  in 2007.

Developers said that act among other factors made some of its business go bust.
RED Development Vice President, Dave Claflin, said confidently, "It doesn't help business."

NBC Action News asked Claflin, "Did it really get any more dangerous over there?"

Claflin answered, "No, it really didn't, not at all."

But many shoppers perceived it had become dangerous so RED, the new developers who began managing the stagnant mall about three years ago, said they knew part of a winning comeback would have to include extra security.

Claflin said, "You need to make sure customers feel safe in the environment. And, in order to do that, sometimes it takes added security, and sometimes it's in the form of a visible presence, just so they perceive that it's safer," said Claflin.

That is in part the reason why a growing number of shoppers like Katie say they continue to shop at Ward Parkway Mall.

Ervin said, "After it (the shooting) happened, they worked hard on security in making sure it was safe."

RED Development said safety - perceived or not - brings in business. In Ward Parkway's case, a $24 million makeover that includes Trader Joe's, a newly renovated AMC theatres and new construction.

Claflin said with a smile, "We were able to bring it back."

RED said they found success because they gave customers what they wanted.

Independence police said they will likely pick up patrols in the next few weeks around Independence Center to make any worried shoppers feel safe.


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