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Police to focus on thefts from malls

November 30, 1998|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

On Saturday, coats valued at more than $3,000 were taken from the Tommy Hilfiger and Eddie Bauer stores at Prime Outlets.

Since November, at least four people have been charged in thefts from the outlet center. A Baltimore woman was charged in the Saturday incident.

Although Maryland State Police Sgt. Terry Hill said the crimes don't indicate a trend, he said troopers and Washington County Sheriff's deputies will focus on the retail center off Interstate 70 and Sharpsburg Pike as part of their joint crime-fighting efforts during the holiday season.

"We will patrol there heavily," he said.

Hill said the outlet mall's proximity to Interstate 70 makes it attractive to out-of-town thieves.

County shopping centers and the Valley Mall will be included in the patrol route.

The crime patrol made its first combined effort last weekend.

"It went fine," said Hill. No arrests were made, but many of the officers received positive feedback from customers, he said.

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Hill said the State Police/Sheriff's Department team will be effective in preventing thefts from cars and from people walking in the parking lots.

On Nov. 22, a woman walking to her car at the Valley Mall had her purse stolen when a man grabbed it from her and fled.

Hill said the combined patrols will help to cut down on such crimes.

"I feel it will be a deterrent," said Hill.

Despite the recent thefts at Prime Outlets, the outlet mall's in-house security department will not increase staff for the holiday season, said Alice Rosen, Prime Outlets assistant general manager/marketing director.

Prime Outlet's security personnel patrol the center's common areas but do not remain in individual stores unless called, she said.

Some stores, including Tommy Hilfiger, have their own security.

A manager at the Tommy Hilfiger store refused to comment on the thefts.

Valley Mall security officials were unavailable for comment.

Numerous people out shopping at the outlets Monday evening said they felt safe knowing local authorities had added patrols and that there is an in-house security staff.

"I've seen them out. It's reassuring," said Florence Baut of Frederick, Md., who said she shopped at the Valley Mall and Prime Outlets on Friday.

"I feel quite comfortable here," said Ed Ford, who traveled from Gaithersburg, Md., on Monday to shop at Prime Outlets.

Books 'N' Things retail coordinator Evelyn Carman said the increased patrols are welcome.

"It's great. Especially for women and children shopping. It gets dark earlier and they will be safer," she said.

She said wasn't sure if the patrols will reduce retail crime.

"We see some pilferage all year round. It traditionally increases in December but its not dramatic," she said.

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