Holiday Shopping: Which stores have the most police calls?

Shoppers carry their purchases as they walk along Fifth Avenue on Black Friday in New York, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stores opened their doors Friday for what is still one of the busiest days of the year, even as the start of the holiday season edges ever earlier. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

If you haven't finished your holiday shopping, you may be making the mad dash to a big box store or a mall soon. FOX 25 is helping you to make safe shopping choices. We’ve analyzed police calls to major shopping centers in Oklahoma City.

Police say the thing to remember when looking at police calls to certain areas is that those calls represent responses to areas that see a lot of people at any given time.

“That doesn't mean at all they are more dangerous,” Master Sergeant Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department explained, “It is just it is a larger area there you are talking about.”

In the big box category, the police records show that Target stores were the least visited by police during the past six months.

Walmart Supercenters have many more police calls for service than other big-box stores, but among the Supercenters the Belle Isle location has more overall calls and more calls that reflect personal crimes ranging from assault to auto burglary.

Police say that doesn't make it unsafe, rather it reflects the number of customers.

“They have lots of customers coming in which just makes it more of a target rich environment,” Knight said.

Walmart says it is taking proactive steps to cut down on crimes that happen at their stores. Anne Hatfield, a spokesperson for Walmart told FOX 25 many of the reforms started this summer and their effects are not reflected in the crime reports yet. However, the company expects to see a reduction in police calls.

“No retailer is immune to the challenge of crime,” Hatfield said. “The importance of this issue is recognized at the highest levels of the company and we are moving aggressively to address these issues by investing in robust technologies and crime prevention efforts while also working closely with law enforcement, security professionals, and community leaders.”

Walmart is implementing several new programs across the country and in Oklahoma City stores. These reforms include:

• Introducing the Restorative Justice program, which allows first time offenders to complete an educational program as opposed to being arrested and charged, and helps reduce police calls to our stores. On average, calls to police have dropped 35% at stores with the program.

• Partnering with local law enforcement

• Implementing the More at the Door program this summer, which bolsters a presence at the front of stores. The newly appointed Customer Host position is designed to provide a warm welcome and enhance customer service, but also adds a key element of deterrence from a safety and security perspective.

• Enhancing our returns policy to serve as an additional deterrent.

• Increased training for Asset Protection associated both at store level and through our training academies.

When it comes to shopping malls, Penn Square Mall tops the list of police calls in the last six months when compared to Quail Springs Mall, the former Crossroads Mall (now Plaza Mayor) and the Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City.

Penn Square Mall also has more auto thefts and break ins when compared to other major shopping centers in the city. Again police stress the high numbers of calls reflect more about the number of customers than it does the safety of the mall.

“It is simply more people showing up there it doesn't mean there is more crime there per capita, it probably is even lower per capita,” Knight said. However, it is not possible to determine from the police call reports a per capita ranking of

Penn square mall said in a statement, “With more than 10 million visitors per year, Penn Square Mall qualifies as the most sizeable and highly-trafficked shopping center in the city. We maintain a strong relationship with the Oklahoma City Police Department and our commitment to providing a safe and enjoyable shopping experience for all of our guests is unwavering. It is in the public’s best interest that we do not discuss or disclose any further enhanced security measures or procedures that we have in place or may institute at any given time, some of which are visible to the public and others which are intentionally less noticeable.”

While there is nothing you as a shopper can do to prevent crime, there are steps you can take to make it less likely that you'll be the victim of crime. This can begin with picking the right time of day to go shopping.

“More crime occurs at night time and there are several reasons there including cover of darkness,” Knight said. Police also recommend shopping with friends because criminals are less likely to target a group of people rather than a single person.

Knight also said to be aware of your surrounds when you pay and also as you pick where you park. He would choose a parking spot in an open lot rather than a parking garage.

Making eye contact with people around you and being aggressive is also a recommended strategy for deterring criminals. You can do everything correctly and still be a victim of crime, but police say criminals tend to pick the easiest target.

Penn Square Mall added these additional safety tips for shoppers this holiday season:

1. When parking, lock your car and take your keys with you.

2. Do not leave valuables in plain view in your car. Lock valuables and all packages in the trunk.

3. When shopping after dark, ask a friend or family member to accompany you.

4. Park in a well-lit area. Make note of where your car is parked and what mall entrance you use.

5. Have your keys ready in your hand when leaving the shopping center to return to your car.

6. Look inside and under your car before getting inside. Lock your doors promptly.

7. Keep valuables and money in a pocket or small purse with a strap that can be worn across your body.

8. Keep your purse closed and secured. Do not put it down anywhere.

9. Be discreet when paying for merchandise if you are carrying a large sum of cash.

10. Stay alert to what is happening around you. If you notice anything that appears suspicious, report it immediately to mall security or a store employee.

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