GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There have been a rash of "smash-and-grab" crimes at upscale stores in major US cities from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Chicago.
Fortunately, nothing on the same scale has happened in West Michigan recently, but we wanted to see if local shopping malls and large retailers were stepping up their security this Black Friday weekend.
Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young of Kent County said there have been different times in West Michigan that she has seen similar occurrences or similar theft rings like the ones currently targeting other US cities. The sheriff's office isn't seeing any currently, however they always work closely with retailers to prevent theft during the holidays.
"Specifically some of our larger retail locations actually have additional patrols on duty during this holiday shopping season to keep everybody safe and to cut down on people capitalizing on the fact there's a lot going on and a lot of opportunity this time of year," LaJoye-Young said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Woodland Mall in Kentwood wrote: 'We are aware of these incidents [in other US cities] and already have strong security measures in place."
Sgt. John Wittkowski, spokesperson for the Grand Rapids Police Department said there does appear to be a substantial increase in retail thefts at big box stores, Centerpointe Mall, and along major thoroughfares, although they typically see an increase in retail thefts and fraud during this time of year. They haven't seen a lot of smash-and-grab crimes.
"Any where there is congestion and traffic, there are vulnerable targets; great anonymity and the ability to blend in and not get caught. Also, because retail is hurting for staff, there are less "eyes" on people and merchandise and less engagement with customers," Wittkowski said.
So what does the sheriff suggest you do if you're in a store and a mob retail theft happens?
"Back away from whatever's happening," LaJoye-Young said. "Don't try to get in anybody's way or apprehend anybody. Make sure you're a good witness by paying attention to anything that might be out of normal. What a person's descriptions might be or if you see any cars or them escaping in a vehicle. A plate is always very helpful."
A spokesperson for Tanger Outlets replied Wednesday that no one was available for comment.
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