The intersection of Ohio 725 and Ohio 741 - just east of Interstate 75’s Exit 44 - is known to many as the entrance to the Dayton Mall area. Just south of the intersection, 24,779 vehicles traveled Ohio 741 a day in 2019. For Ohio 725 just east of the intersection, those figures were 24,441 vehicles a day, according to Ohio Department of Transportation records. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

Highways near Dayton Mall give criminals chance ‘to get in and out’

State records show about 195,000 vehicles combined pass daily through those three routes encircling the mall, which is surrounded by a concentration of retail stores and hotels, the latter of which those who study criminal activity say poses a challenge in combating crimes, including some violent and deadly ones.

The Miami Twp. Police Department, which patrols the Dayton Mall area, has seen a rise in calls for service across the community in recent years and is adding more officers this year.

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Authorities say the new police officers will boost law enforcement’s visibility and help curb the potential for illegal activities, issues crime experts say face mall areas across the country.

“When you have highways very close like that it just gives folks who are looking to engage in criminal activity a little bit more opportunity,” said Karen Lahm, a Wright State University sociology professor. “It gives them certainly a quicker means to get in and out and make themselves less visible.”

Easy interstate access

Interstates 75 and 675 around Miami Twp. had a combined 171,275 vehicles traveling them daily in 2019, according to Ohio Department of Transportation records.

That’s second in the Dayton region to the I-75/I-70 area (191,905) among interstate interchanges, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis.

Add in the nearly 25,000 every day Miami Twp. drivers on Ohio 725 that connects with both I-75 and I-675 and the daily traffic encircling the mall area surpasses the I-75/70 corridor with more than 195,000 vehicles.

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The intersection of Ohio 741 and Ohio 725 near Dayton Mall entrance boosts those numbers by 24,779, state records show, making a combined total of more than 220,000 vehicles in the mall area on a daily basis.

“You like the convenience of being close to the interstate,” said Pat McCoy, a Miami Twp. police officer who serves as the department’s spokesperson. “But other times you want to curse because you’ve got groups that do nothing but run and up and down the interstate and hit businesses off the interstate.

“I’m not blaming the interstate. It’s just an easy on and easy off,” McCoy added. “I’m sure any (police) department that has an interstate cutting through it has the same problems.”

I-75 was the escape route in two violent crimes in and around the Dayton Mall in recent months, including one case in which police served a warrant on this past week.

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A November carjacking at gunpoint outside the mall led police to a Jefferson Twp. home Wednesday, Miami Twp. Detective Sgt. Mike Siney said.

The stolen car was seen speeding up I-75 that fall day after being taken from an Englewood woman in the mall’s north parking outside of Macy’s after a man pulled a handgun on her, according to police.

The victim was shaken up, but appeared to be uninjured after witnesses said the suspect sought to force her into the cars. The man who took car was seen speeding out of the parking lot and headed down Ohio 725, police records show.

No arrests have been announced.

Hotel shooting suspects

An arrest was made last month by Miami Twp. police on mall area hotel murder suspect Jesse Lamar Shepherd at a Lakeside Drive home in Dayton.

Authorities said Shepherd, 28, escaped after a chase up I-75 ended in Moraine following a Dec. 18 shooting outside the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel on Prestige Place.

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“He’s definitely a threat and a danger to the rest of the public,” McCoy said the day Shepherd was arrested. “He shoots someone outside the DoubleTree hotel. That’s not somebody you want running around on the loose.”

Shepherd has not been formally charged in that case, according to Montgomery County court records. He remains in the county jail awaiting aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and felonious assault charges, jail records show.

Another fatal shooting case at the DoubleTree was resolved last month. Larry Malcolm Sain of Warren County was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison for Sept. 13, 2018, homicide of Jayren Graham of Miami Twp. during what witnesses testified was a drug deal gone bad in the hotel parking lot.

Sain, an 18-year-old former West Carrollton High School student, was sentenced on murder and tampering with evidence charges for the death of Graham, who worked at the hotel.

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Two witnesses testified Sain pulled a gun on Graham in the victim’s car as Sain and he were in the midst of a marijuana transaction.

The struggle spilled out the car and both were wrestling on the ground when the gun fired, the two witnesses said.

Voters approve more police

Certain extended stay hotels and motels in a cluster of hospitality businesses around the mall have commonly been sites for criminal activity, often times drug- or prostitution-related, McCoy said.

In recent years, “we’ve seen an increase in transient populations in these hotels,” he said. “It doesn’t bring the best element at all times.”

To help curb crime, Miami Twp. police work with businesses and neighborhoods to increase their visibility. Last year the township was named No. 1 in the country for its National Night Out program among communities with populations between 15,000 and 50,000.

The police department is also in the process of adding up to three officers after 57 percent of voters last year approved by a property tax increase to help fund the positions.

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Former Police Chief and current Administrator Ron Hess pushed for the tax hike to fund the new jobs after police responded to 30,066 calls for service in 2018, 1,482 more than the year prior.

“We’re trying to increase our time out of the car and getting to know the business owners better and have a better relationship with them,” McCoy said.

“And with the additional manpower we’re able to do this because we’re not running from call to call to call,” he added. “And we’ve got the time that we can do this.”

The increased street presence should provide a greater deterrent against crime, Lahm said.

“When folks can see the visibility, when they can see police officers walking around,” she said, “it does foster better feelings about safety.”

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