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Like every mall this time of the year, the Sawgrass Mills Mall is getting ready for another holiday season of heavy shopping and, unfortunately, heavy crime. Between Nov. 28, when stores celebrated Black Friday, and Nov. 30, 41 counts of theft-related felonies and misdemeanors have been reported at the mall.
"It happens every year with more and more people coming to the mall," said Sunrise Police Spokesman Lt. Brian Gerity. Sunrise Police and the mall's administration signed a partnership to increase security. The police department has added warnings and Park Smart signs throughout the parking garages, implemented a retailer signage targeting shoplifters, and has met with retailers and explained to them how to prevent crime.
Luanne Lenberg, vice president and general manager of the mall, said the staff is committed to providing a safe shopping experience. "We're confident that the security measures we have in place are effective for shoppers, retailers and employees," Lenberg said. "We will continue to do what we can and would also ask our shoppers to be diligent in being alert and reporting any suspicious activity."
Carolina Palmeiro remembers her experience when she was shopping at the mall Nov. 29 right after noontime. The resident of Doral was in a crowded clothing store when someone took her wallet. "I felt like someone hit me in the arm, but I kept walking. When I got out of the store, my purse was all open, my wallet was not there," Palmeiro said. "I was in shock. They managed to open my purse right in front of me and I didn't notice." She lost $80 in cash, all her credit cards, Florida identification card and driver's license, and a lot of important papers.
Another common crime during the high shopping season is vehicle burglarizing. A big mistake shoppers make is taking their purchases back to their cars and returning to the mall. Thieves are looking out for this, Gerity said. "If you have something of value, just take it back home or continue shopping another day, but never leave any valuables in the car," Gerity said. Thieves can even follow shoppers from one store to another. This was the case of a man who purchased five computers at Best Buy and then drove to Sawgrass Mills Mall. As soon as he parked his car, it was burglarized. Fortunately, only one computer was stolen.
Shoppers walking to their cars should also be careful and vigilant. According to a recent report, a man approached two shoppers in the parking lot and offered to help with their bags. The women refused, and the man ran away with one of their purses. But shoppers are not the only ones that need to watch out. Shoplifting has been reported on a daily basis since Black Friday, with suspects attempting to steal anything from a $19.99 T-shirt to trying to walk out with $2,574 worth of DVDs and video games. Unfortunately, shoplifters don't fit into any stereotype and even the most inoffensive-looking person could commit a crime, such as a seven-month pregnant woman who recently tried to walk away with $426.54 worth of children's clothing from JC Penny.
Gerity asks shoppers to always be alert and to report any suspicious person or activity.
Holiday shopping safety tips:
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