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Council debates police coverage at Chambersburg Mall

August 24, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The company that owns Chambersburg Mall wants additional Chambersburg police officers to patrol on weekends when its decade-old agreement with the borough comes up for renewal, Police Chief Michael DeFrank said.

"They want at least two people on patrol duty there Friday and Saturday nights," DeFrank told the borough council Monday night. He also told council the mall plans to rescind a long-standing policy requiring children 16 and younger be escorted by a parent or other adult.

"That policy is going to be eliminated very, very soon," DeFrank said, although he did not have an exact date. He said elimination of the policy raises concerns about the safety of having just one officer patrolling the mall with higher numbers of unescorted juveniles.

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DeFrank said he told management he was not in favor of changing the juvenile policy, which he said has been in effect for a number of years. The joint municipal agreement for law enforcement services between the borough, mall and Greene Township, where the mall is located, dates back to 1994 and is renewed year-to-year, according to a copy of the agreement.

The mall is owned by Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which merged with Crown American Realty Trust in November 2003. No representative from Chambersburg Mall was at the Monday's meeting.

Officers for the mall patrols are provided on a voluntary overtime basis with officers signing up for the extra duty, said Borough Manager Eric Oyer. He said the cost of the police services is updated every year and the mall is paying the borough $56.88 an hour this year for approximately 10 hours of service a week.

Oyer said there has never been an officer injured or any lawsuits filed as a result of the police services and it does not cost the borough any money.

DeFrank said personnel has not been a problem for the department in fulfilling its regular patrols duties in the borough, although there have been times when officers have not signed up for mall duty.

"I see we are doing a service to borough residents" and other area residents who shop at the mall, said Councilman Glenn Manns, a retired sergeant with the department.

Changing the juvenile policy "could make life more hectic up there," but he said he favors trying to work with the mall to continue patrols.

"I have a problem putting our officers in jeopardy just to baby-sit a bunch of kids because their parents don't want them at home," said Councilwoman Sharon Bigler.

Any party can opt out of the agreement by giving 90 days notice prior to the end of the year, but Council President William McLaughlin suggested that be changed to "blanket termination clause" of 60 days notice at any time in case the agreement proves to be a burden on the department.

The council took no action on the agreement pending further talks with Chambersburg Mall.

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