You may have caught some of the news coverage lately regarding our decision to move out of the substation at the mall. It’s a decision that took some time to make. Since 2002 we have had that storefront location which gave the public easy access to officers who could answer their questions and provide them with information. Despite the images of “Paul Blart- Mall Cop” that some of that media coverage painted, the officers assigned to the substation are not in charge of security for the mall. That’s handled by a private company. Rather they are either part of our Community Advocacy Program (CAP) or School Resource Officers (SRO). We also have an administrative assistant and a number of volunteers who work out of the mall substation.
CAP officers are essentially community liaisons. The officers address specific concerns from neighborhoods and work to educate the public on various safety and crime prevention issues. They are in charge of a number of programs including Neighborhood Watch, Crime Free Multi-housing and Crime Free Hotels, National Night Out, and Crime Stoppers. All of these are very effective tools in teaching the public how to keep crime out and how not to be a victim, which is why the Community Advocacy Program is not going away. Yes, some of the CAP officers have been reassigned to patrol the streets because of some vacancies we currently have, but the officers who are still assigned to this unit will continue to work directly with our community and teach you how to stay safe, they’ll just be doing it from the main police station downtown.
Our SROs haven’t gone away either, they just don’t have a desk at the mall anymore. Thanks to our partnership with School District 51 we’ve been able to find them desks in the schools the SROs are assigned to.
So why close this substation you ask? There are a few reasons. First, we just haven’t been seeing the interest from the public that we used to. Fewer and fewer people are choosing to stop by the substation for information. We also have fewer officers using that space since we’ve moved some of them to patrol the streets. We also pay approximately $9,000 a year for utilities and cleaning fees just for the substation. Combine those factors and it simply doesn’t make sense to keep it open, especially in tight budget times, not to mention it really isn’t fair to the mall to take up space that isn’t being fully staffed.
Closing the substation won’t happen immediately. In talking with the folks at the mall, we agree that having a few officers there during the busy holiday shopping season would be a good idea. The plan is to move the remaining officers to the main police department at the end of the year. We’re grateful for the partnership we’ve had with the mall over the last 8 years, which allowed us to use the space rent free, and we will continue to provide them, and all of our community with the same professional service you have come to expect.