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Property crimes task force cracks down on shoplifting at Destiny USA mall

A crackdown on shoplifting at Destiny USA mall is working.
Ellen Abbott
A crackdown on shoplifting at Destiny USA mall is working.

A crackdown on shoplifting is working at Destiny USA. There has been a significant decrease in the amount of property crime at the Syracuse mall since a Property Crimes Task Force went into action six months ago.

Mark Rusin, a deputy chief in the Syracuse Police Department, said statistics on property crime show some initial success from the Task Force that began its work in November.

"In the month of November 2023, there were 145 property crimes reported," Rusin said. "Since then we have an approximately 50% reduction in calls. There have been 283 arrests, 72 which have resulted in a felony charge."

The Task Force uses extra patrol officers, some paid by Destiny, others funded by the Police Department, to walk or bike the mall. It’s also had collaborative meetings with stores and worked closely with the District Attorney and Probation Departments. Statistics show 21 people were responsible for 126 separate incidents, and that’s where the District Attorney’s office comes in.

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said a new program out of his office, called STOP, has targeted these repeat offenders, by sending their cases to trial after four arrests. It also has new tools for these serial offenders to be charged with felonies. Fitzpatrick notes that a recent career shoplifter was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in jail.

"These crimes are not minor," Fitzpatrick said. "We are not prosecuting a 17-year-old single mother who is stealing diapers or baby formula for her kid. We are prosecuting career, organized criminals."

Steve Congel, CEO of Pyramid Management that runs the mall, said while the company's investment in the initiative is expensive, they will continue to fund their share of it.

"These positive results have only enhanced our resolve to continue to invest in additional programs and partnerships that will maintain that level of result," Congel said.

Rusin also points out that shoplifting isn’t just a mall issue, but focusing on ways to stop it has reaped benefits in other parts of the city as well.

"We started working with Rite Aid on Butternut Street because this was you know that was an area where people were walking to go to the store," Rusin said. "If that store shut down it was a real major issue for the population that lived in the Butternut Street area. So the information we're learning from there is helping with the operations that we're doing here and vice versa because this isn't just a Destiny or a mall problem, this is more widespread than that."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.