Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is Zach Rounceville.
Over recent months, shopping malls in the Charlotte area have seen several incidents of criminal activity, which is part of a larger wave of offenses committed at other malls in large urban areas throughout the U.S.
Crime is not a new phenomenon at Charlotte's Northlake Mall, as the mall has been host to shootings and other incidents over the last several years.
Tenants at Northlake have expressed ongoing concerns over the safety of the premises and mall patrons.
One such retailer is American Eagle Outfitters, who after exiting the mall was sued by its parent company, The Spinoso Real Estate Group over allegedly violating its lease agreement due to the store not being in continual operation during the lease term.
American Eagle then filed a counterclaim against Spinoso, alleging that the mall is unsafe for operation due to "rampant violence."
In a recent development, American Eagle and Spinoso are seeking a resolution over the lawsuit. Details of the possible settlement are unknown at this time.
Other stores in Northlake have also left the mall over the last year, with retailers Chico's, Michael Kors, Soma, and White House Black Market closing up shop. Apple, who also operated in Northlake, recently moved to a new location in the Huntersville area.
In an emailed statement to Carolina Journal, former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael said the mall incidents are part of a larger pattern of criminal behavior at retail stores in other parts of the country.
"We are seeing this across the country,"
he said. "Major box stores are leaving certain cities because of crime. Northlake has been hit with violent crime for years and certain retailers are withdrawing as tenants in the mall. Until we have teeth in the legal system in our county to deter crime and hold criminals accountable for their crimes, things will only continue to get worse."
Northlake is not the only retail establishment facing issues with criminal incidents. SouthPark Mall has also seen its fair share of criminal activity in recent months. On August 7, SouthPark's Belk store was robbed at gunpoint by two individuals.
On October 3, a man was robbed at gunpoint by an assailant in the parking deck of the mall, where 160 dollars in cash was stolen from the victim.
In a clarification to the parking deck incident, SouthPark's communications team sent a statement to the news organization who reported it, saying the crime occurred at a CATS bus stop. The mall then outlined its approach to preventing criminal activity.
"...At SouthPark Mall, we take very seriously our responsibility to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for our shoppers, employees, and retailers,"
the mall said. "Our program is Homeland Security Safety Act Certified, which recognizes our significant and continuous efforts to safeguard the public and is implemented in close collaboration with the Charlotte Police Department, tenants, neighborhood organizations and others. Elements of our program include recently installed license plate readers at all parking entrances, trained security professionals who patrol the property 24/7, hired off-duty police officers, and an on-site police substation. Security professionals and police are supported by the Simon Operations Intelligence Center, where highly trained specialists use purposefully built algorithms to monitor real-time risk. Our team of specialists provide real-time 24/7 CCTV camera monitoring, dispatching, and local, state and national intelligence gathering."
Charlotte city councilman Tariq Bokhari recently called attention to an incident via a Facebook post where shop lifters allegedly stole merchandise from Dick's Sporting Goods.
"This madness must stop,"
he said in response. "It's time for our leaders to get serious about taking the offensive."
To combat the rising retail theft in the Charlotte area, lawmakers and retail stores have turned to retail theft laws and enhanced security measures to protect customers.
Despite these occurrences, a recent study conducted by personal finance company WalletHub indicated that Charlotte ranks 45th out of 182 U.S. cities in terms of overall safety. The study measured overall safety based on metrics of home and community safety, natural-disaster risk, and financial safety. Charlotte's home and community safety ranking was 65th.