Shoppers express feeling safe despite mall incidents

Dayton-area shoppers said they felt safe shopping Tuesday despite a string of violent incidents at malls across the nation — including a disturbance that drew a pepper spray response from police at a suburban Cleveland mall.

Local mall management said they work with police to ensure shopper safety and police added their emergency response procedures to critical incidents, such as a school shooting, can be applied at locations such as shopping malls.

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“Most of the time we do it based on a school environment, but it’s applicable to anything that could happen, such as an active shooter,” said Beavercreek Police Captain Chad Lindsey. He said the department also keeps in contact with security with the Mall at Fairfield Commons, mostly in reference to issues like shoplifting.

No one was seriously injured in the mall melees Monday night, which during the panic also prompted numerous false reports of gunfire, the Associated Press reported. There were similar disturbances at malls around the country including in New York, Texas and Colorado.

The incident in suburban Beachwood, Ohio at Beachwood Place included a call to police for shots fired, police told Cleveland.com, which reports the incident was "loosely organized on social media." No gunfire was confirmed.

“I’m trying not to be too paranoid about it, but you always have to be cognizant of who is around and your exits,” said shopper Erica Ford of Beavercreek. “You can’t be too paranoid and not go anywhere — you just have to pray.”

Local retail box stores have been the site of false incidents this month. Last week, as part of an attempted bank robbery, a male called 911 in Kettering to falsely report bombs — including one at a busy Kroger at 2115 E. Dorothy Lane, which was evacuated. Police searched the store and the Kettering Recreation Complex and allowed patrons to return.

Holiday disturbances at local malls have happened in prior years, too. On Dec. 23, 2014, nearly 100 people conducted a "die-in" protest at Fairfield Commons. As protesters unfurled a large yellow banner off the second-floor that read, "Black Lives Matter," mall security personnel and police officers from several agencies stood arm-to-arm trying to force protesters outside the mall. Twelve individuals were arrested.

Washington Prime Group, the Ohio-based company that operates the Dayton metro region’s two indoor shopping malls — Fairfield Commons and Dayton Mall — released a statement Tuesday noting safety is the company’s “number one priority.”

“We work closely with the local police departments and our own security teams to provide shoppers with a safe, pleasant shopping experience year round,” said Shelley Sloan, regional marketing manager at Washington Prime Group, in a statement.

The newspaper also contacted Olshan Properties, which operates The Greene, but did not obtain a response.