In Wake of Kidnapping, Waterworks Mall Security Questioned

Article excerpt

Mall security has come a long way.

"In the old days, 30 years ago, the security was a guard and he was kind of a necessity that nobody really wanted," said Jonathan Lusher, a former Baltimore detective who serves as principal consultant to the security firm IPC International. "Mostly, his job was to lock the place at night and unlock it in the morning."

In 2007, guarding shopping centers means high-tech cameras, metal detectors, armed police and roving patrol cars. Job responsibilities range from theft prevention and customer service to first aid and terrorism preparedness.

The April 7 abduction of a Fox Chapel woman and her 16-month-old daughter outside a Giant Eagle at The Waterworks, a million-square- foot shopping center near Aspinwall, has some people wondering whether that level of security is enough.

Pittsburgh police plan to charge the suspected kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Tayse, 30, with raping the mother. He will be extradited from Cleveland, where the woman told police he forced her to drive while threatening her child with a knife.

Despite the arrest, questions remain about safety in parking lots of malls and shopping centers.

"They definitely need to increase the security, because this happened in daytime," said Pablo Linzoian, 36, of Aspinwall. "I don't want to blame anyone. ... (But) if we let Giant Eagle know they need more security, we can make a better neighborhood."

A spokesman for J.J. Gumberg Co., which manages The Waterworks, said an incident as severe as the Easter weekend kidnapping is an exception to the rule.

"The history of the center has not exhibited any problems," said Stephen White, the company's senior vice president. "This is a random incident. The place is safe."

White declined to discuss details, as did Giant Eagle.

"While we cannot comment on this specific case, customer and employee safety is the number one priority at Giant Eagle," spokesman Dick Roberts said.

A mall's location tends to dictate its crime levels, experts said.

"The shopping center is going to reflect and attract people from the neighborhood," said Chris E. McGoey, president of California- based McGoey Security Consulting.

Lusher, whose firm provides security at Century III Mall in West Mifflin, agrees.

"A community that generally has a higher crime rate will have a higher crime rate at its shopping mall," he said. …