Breaking down mall crimes around Macon
We recently reported the upcoming closing of JCPenney stores in Central Georgia, including the one at the Macon Mall. That post had many of you commenting about safety there.
Chris Keys says, "It is a shame what it has become. It's not safe and the area has gone down from what it was when I was growing up."
Alisa Wilmoth says, "I heard it was taken over by gangs," and finally, Nick Hazelton chimed in saying, "What happens when nothing is invested in security and it becomes a haven for thugs. It was not a place I wanted my family to shop."
We wanted to find out if those perceptions about the Macon Mall match reality.
"Crime can happen anywhere," says Bibb County Sheriff David Davis, and in a shopping area that opened more than three decades ago, like the Macon Mall, the memories about past occurrences of crime can add up.
We couldn't compile 30 years of history, but according to 2016 police reports, the Macon Mall had the least amount of crimes with 88 incidents reported.
That's compared to the 103 incidents at The Shoppes at River Crossing, and 124 reported at Eisenhower Crossing.
"There's a large law enforcement presence at the mall pretty much all the time, so that may play a factor into it," Sheriff Davis says.
However, Davis says there are fewer stores at the Macon Mall to attract big crowds.
It currently has 40 stores; the Shoppes at River Crossing, 79; and Eisenhower Crossing, 38, but those include two grocery stores and big box retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Michaels.
Traci Oxford, a victim of a theft at Eisenhower Crossing in January of last year, says it shook her to her core.
"When they are coming up towards you... I didn't even think nothing of a robbery," Oxford says.
According to the incident report, as Oxford was putting away her purchases, a man approached in a vehicle snatched her purse off her shoulder and made a quick getaway.
"It was shock, disbelief, mad because I'm thinking, 'You robbed me,'" Oxford says.
An account of theft at Eisenhower Crossing
But digging deeper, we found that this isn't the most common crime reported at Eisenhower Crossing.
According to an open records request detailing crimes at Macon-Bibb shopping areas in 2016, Eisenhower Crossing had 14 car break-ins and 11 forced burglaries.
"They're sort of bunched right up against several residential areas, so people can just come in to the property do whatever they are going to do, and they can just fade back into the residential area close by," Sheriff Davis says.
He says Bibb County deputies patrol to deter crime.
The Shoppes at River Crossing is the only shopping center that doesn't use the Bibb Sheriff's Office to help with security.
General manager, Paul Baker, says a team of professional security guards patrol and watch customers on a closed circuit TV system.
It's not foolproof -- River Crossing reported the most shoplifting cases at 84 in 2016.
"Businesses are laid out. They aren't under one roof, so people can go into one shop, steal or do whatever they are going to do, and blend in," Sheriff Davis.
The Macon Mall topped the list for card theft as the only one of three centers reporting this crime.
"Based on the facts and based on the statistics, the Macon Mall is really no more dangerous than any other shopping area in this community, and in some cases, it's even less incidents happening there," Sheriff Davis says.
Sheriff Davis says no matter where you are, if you feel uncomfortable, call police.
He says if you ever have a hunch, 99 percent of the time, there's something to it.