Photos: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove
A rash of burglaries and robberies have some business owners and their employees on edge at the Burbank Town Center mall in Downtown Burbank. Business owner Diana Daoud brought her complaints and frustrations to the Burbank City Council on Tuesday, August 12.
During her few minutes at the podium, Daoud presented details about the recent burglaries at one of her businesses and then hammered home her bottom line point; the inadequate security at the Burbank Town Center has made the mall unsafe and an easy target for criminals.
Daoud is the co-owner of the AT&T Wireless kiosk on the second level of the mall in front of Mervyn’s, between Foot Locker and Fashion Nail Spa. This AT&T Wireless store has been hit four times by burglars in the past 13 months.
The most costly break-in occurred a few weeks ago on July 27, when thieves carried off $15, 000 in merchandise. The same bunch of criminals may have returned on August 3 for an encore only to find the store’s stock of cell phones and wireless products had been moved.
After her appearance before the city council I spoke with Daoud. The last two break-ins at her store happened on Sunday nights when mall security is light; sometimes only one security guard is on duty she says. Daoud suggests the thieves came through or left by way of a nearby second level exit, which she claims is left unlocked until 2 a.m.
Daoud had security cameras installed at her AT&T Wireless kiosk in December of 2007, after the first two burglaries. She believes beefing up security personnel in the mall and installing surveillance cameras throughout the three level structure would really deter crime.
Meanwhile, there is concern among workers at Daoud’s business about the recent surge in crime as well. I dropped by the AT&T kiosk on Saturday, August 16 and spoke with two male employees.
Peter Aranda of Sun Valley was the first to arrive on the Monday after the July burglary. “Drawers were open… all the phones were gone. Only four (remained) … free ones.”
Aranda hopes the thieves don’t come back. Theo Okuribido of North Hollywood agrees. Okuribido fears the criminals will get bolder and come at “gun point” during closing time when employees are still at the kiosk. Daoud expressed similar fears as well.
Down the corridor, and next to the second level exit is the LA Trends Hair Salon. Manager Stella Keshishyan says the owner installed security cameras inside the salon when the business opened a year ago.
The hair salon has not been hit by crime, however, Keshishyan says mall security has asked them to “rewind the video” when investigating incidents that might have been caught on the salon cameras.
I saw a couple of private security guards on duty at the mall. One looked at the 35mm camera in my hand and told me I couldn’t take pictures. The security guard rattled off what sounded like a well-rehearsed spiel about the mall being private property and something about protecting the brands and copyrights of the businesses. No photos? Hmm, I didn’t see any posted signs in the mall prohibiting photo taking.
There were hundreds of shoppers, perhaps thousands, in the Burbank Town Center mall on that Saturday and many of them probably had cameras on their cell phones. I wonder, do shoppers know they can’t use their cell phone cameras in the mall? What about during an emergency?
I had questions. The security guard told me to go downstairs to customer service and speak with management. So, I took the escalators to customer service on the first level. When I asked the nice lady behind the counter if I could talk with someone in management she glanced over at the dark offices and said, “They’re closed on the weekends.” She gave me a phone number and said I could call on Monday.
Eventually, I would have another encounter with mall security and hear more stories about crime as well as intimidation and retaliation at the Burbank Town Center. That will be coming up in part two called, ” Is The Burbank Town Center Mall Safe?”