PAPD, mall VP speak out against attack rumors

Published 4:56 pm Monday, May 21, 2007

An anonymous e-mail circulating South and Mid-County Internet users warns shoppers that Central Mall has become a hot bed of violent attacks. Port Arthur Police Chief Mark Blanton calls these rumors “totally incorrect.”

The robbery of an 81-year old woman inside Central Mall last month, paired with the rumors of other attacks at the mall has prompted PAPD and the Central Mall general manager to speak out concerning the safety of the shopping center.

“What we had here were random acts of violence,” Robert Harkins, general manager and vice president of Central mall said in reference to a purse snatching that occurred Sunday, April 29, that left 81-year old Jessie Ortiz with a busted lip.

The robbery was caught on security cameras near the Target entrance in the mall and the video has been sent to the FBI for enhancement. The suspect is still at-large, however, the suspect in another robbery at the mall was apprehended minutes after the attack.

Harkins said his mall, a Jones Lang LaSalle property, is no more dangerous than any other property and might actually be better in safety.

“Outside we have lighting and some stores have cameras,” he said. “Security was told to be aware of their surroundings and we’ll add security if we feel it is necessary.”

After the attack of Ortiz, security was enhanced and PAPD Chief Blanton said his department is assisting in the mall’s security by training security officers. Off-duty police officers have been hired by the mall as well. There has also been discussion about starting a citizen action patrol unit for the mall area.

However, Blanton said the rumors on the severity of the attacks at the mall are “totally incorrect” and that Ortiz was “not maliciously beaten” as rumors have stated.

“These rumors are false and we felt we had an obligation to clarify the facts,” the police chief said. “We share the concerns of the community.”

Harkins said the mall has not seen a retail drop off since the rumors started.

“We invite everybody to come back out and shop,” he said. “If you have any problems or concerns, feel free to report them to management.”

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