Security Measures Beefed Up at Prien Lake Mall

September 4, 2006
Reported by Rhonda Kitchens

Around 5:30 Monday afternoon, Lake Charles police responded to a disturbance at the Prien Lake Mall. When they arrived, they learned two lake area teenagers had been involved in an altercation, ending with one of them getting stabbed. Both teens have been charged in the incident.  7News has learned its not the first time violence has erupted between teens on mall property.

The Prien Lake Mall is no longer just for shopping.

Lake Charles Police Chief, Don Dixon says, "It has become a meeting area for different types of groups."

And the chance of those groups clashing tend to go up anytime teenagers have a break from school.

"We're aware of it," says Dixon, "we're monitoring it. Every week when we have our comstat meeting we talk about everything that's happened at the mall, when it happens, where it happens."

Dixon says they've responded to several disturbance calls at the mall since the beginning of 2006.

"Ten for batteries or assaults and batteries, 9 for burglaries, 46 for thefts, which would include shoplifting and 12 for criminal damage, so we've had 77 reports."

And that's just the cases resulting in a report.

"In addition to that," says Dixon, "we've been dispatched out there another 41 times on disturbance type calls, 6 times on narcotics, and we've had 47 alarms."

Dixon says his office is working closely with mall officials to keep shoppers and mall employees safe.

"We have solved some of the problem areas where on Friday and Saturday nights, starting May of this year, they've hired two off duty police officers that are there from I believe 8 p.m until 1 a.m on Friday and Saturday nights."

The added security is paying off, but Dixon says there are safety measures shoppers should take as well.

"Don't be a specatator. If they see a problem, go the other way."

And use the most powerful weapon in your possession.

"If you have a cell phone and see trouble coming call 911. We encourage you to call 911, you don't even have to give your name just say I'm at the mall and this is about to happen."

Dixon says officers will immediately be dispatched to hopefully get the situation under control before anyone gets hurt.

7News contacted the Prien Lake Mall about this story. Although they declined an on-camera interview, Manager, Debbie Seal released the following statement:

Prien Lake Mall has always strived for a family atmosphere. As part of our commitment to provide a safe and secure shopping environment, we continuously review and make enhancements to our security program. Some of the recent changes are readily visible to the public, while others are not. Recent visible enhancements include supplementing our current security force with additional Lake Charles off-duty police officers and adding a security-driven golf cart to our parking lot patrol during peak traffic hours.

Regarding the teen presence at Prien Lake Mall, we have stepped up our efforts to communicate directly with the community -- particularly with parents of teens and pre-teenaged children -- about the need for children not to be left unsupervised at the mall, especially on the weekends. We encourage parents of teens who visit our shopping center to learn our code of conduct and reinforce this with their children before they visit Prien Lake Mall. We invite parents and/or shoppers to contact us if they have any questions about our code of conduct and policy in this matter.