INDIANAPOLIS — Since mid-summer of 2022, five people have been shot to death at central Indiana shopping malls.
On Jan. 3, a 16-year-old boy was fatally wounded when police reported he made a mistake by attempting to enter a vehicle that matched his friend’s car.
Last week, Curtis Wilson, 18, was arrested after being shot during a gunfight that investigators said he started at Castleton Square Mall.
Late Saturday afternoon, literally within minutes of one another, two men with guns were arrested for trespassing on mall property by IMPD officers working off-duty.
It was last mid-July when a gunman killed three people before being shot to death by another shopper at Greenwood Park Mall.
Just before Christmas, bullets were sprayed outside that mall in a shooting that is still unsolved.
Retail experts fear that gun violence may discourage shoppers from returning to malls that were empty due to the COVID pandemic of 2020.
”If these incidents become more salient, and unless indoor shopping malls can convince shoppers that they are taking active security measures to mitigate that risk, there is a chance that shoppers like you and I might start preferring open-air shopping malls or even on line shopping,” said Professor Vivek Astvansh of the IU Kelley School of Business.
“What the shopping mall owners need to do is enforce those rules and convince the shoppers that they are taking all the precautionary measures. So, it’s one thing to take actions, but it’s another thing to communicate those actions so that the shoppers will be perceiving elevated risks might realize that, ‘Yeah, we’re in a safer environment and the shopping mall owners are aware of the risk and taking precautionary measures’.”
Following last week’s shooting at Castleton Square, mall management issued a statement that its own security personnel, who work alongside off-duty IMPD officers, utilized a K9 officer to help apprehend two suspects and that IMPD would provide stepped-up patrols over the weekend which were in place for the two arrests late Saturday afternoon which resulted in one man being banned from the mall for life.
”I can imagine there will be an erosion of trust, an ongoing erosion of trust,” said IU Kelley School Professor John Talbott. ”I think there will be groups of individuals to make that decision that, ‘I don’t feel safe,’ and because of that choose to make that purchase online.”
Talbott said that while researchers have surveyed consumer attitudes regarding the online retail experience versus in-store shopping, he’s unaware of any studies on the impact of perceived safety on store foot traffic.
”Now you have this perception that someone is suffering harm in a shopping center every single day. That’s probably too strong,” said Talbott. ”The incidents of it is still relatively low and I would say truthfully there probably is more danger in parking in a shopping center mall from a statistical probability standpoint but that doesn’t change peoples’ fear.”