As thousands of shoppers flock to malls and stores this holiday season, local law enforcement and mall managers emphasize that safety is at the top of their list.
But whether they’re striving to curtail shoplifting and vehicle break-ins or developing ways to prevent potential large-scale crimes, they’re keeping the specifics of their playbook to themselves.
“We’ve discussed internally the recent shootings,” said Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero, referring to the shootings at New Jersey and Kenya malls earlier this fall. “We are planning and we have extra officers in place and will continue through the holidays.”
Generally speaking, he said, at greatest risk are areas where masses of people gather, and that also have a significant connection to major highways, utilities, commerce, communications and technology.
“Shortly after 9/11, when we sat down and looked at targets, vulnerability and risk assessment, and ranked potential targets — we recognized that the Eastview complex is one of our top safety and security concerns,” said Povero. “By its very nature, Eastview Mall continues to be a major security concern for all law enforcement, as well as persons providing fire protection and emergency medical services.”
Members of the county’s Emergency Response Team, Povero said, meet periodically to learn, review and practice various techniques and skills necessary for an emergency response. Due to operational concerns, he declined to identify how many officers are on the team, but said more deputies were added to the group in 2012.
“Ontario County Emergency Response Team members are trained in advanced hand and long gun marksmanship,” Povero said, “as well as the use of gas masks, chemical munitions, distraction devices and forced-entry tools.”
Training is scheduled with other police agencies when possible, Povero said, though State Police Public Information Officer Mark O’Donnell declined to confirm or comment on training or strategy of any kind.
On both county and municipal levels, Ontario County’s All Hazard Mitigation Plan (AHMP) addresses a wide range of potential disasters, natural and otherwise, according to Ontario County Associate Planner Tim Jensen. He said the “what if” conversations happen on a regular basis.
The hazard mitigation plan, which serves the county and its 26 individual municipalities, is just one aspect of Ontario’s emergency response strategy.
“There are multiple other plans and processes going on all the time in the area of disaster/emergency response,” he said.

Traffic and loss prevention
On a different scale, but no less of concern, is accessibility. Holiday shopping means heavy traffic — a problem that snarled Eastview Mall parking lots and access roads in 2012. Traffic jams have the potential to hinder fire or medical emergency response teams, and Povero said plans have been made to combat the problem, including extra deputies whose job it is to keep traffic moving — safely.
Providing open access for emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances is essential, he said.
“Fire and emergency medical services are notified of extra holiday police presence during the holiday season,” Povero said. “And the Ontario County Mobile Command Post Vehicle is assigned to Eastview Mall on Black Friday and weekends in December.”

Combating shoplifting
With the holiday shoppers also come holiday shoplifters — a problem police, mall security and retail managers tackle together, said Povero.
“All the retail establishments meet so they’re up to speed on preventative issues, communication and overall awareness program,” he said.
Store employees are asked to call 911 if they see anything suspicious, out of the ordinary, or out of place.

In the parking lot
Another concern is parking lot safety, and the State Police’s O’Donnell said shoppers need to be mindful.
“We encourage people to put their gifts out of sight in their locked vehicles, and to walk to their cars in groups,” he said. “Also, be aware of the location of your purse or wallet at all times.”
He said shoppers should avoid the distraction of a phone call when getting in and out of vehicles.
“If you’re on the phone, you’re not aware of what’s going on around you,” he said. “You may not see that the vehicle next to you has its motor running.”
Mall security personnel will escort shoppers to or from their vehicles upon request. They will also offer jump starts for drained vehicle batteries.

'One of the safest'
Povero said officers meet regularly with mall staff and management, and it is a practice that’s paying off.
“We are very proud that over the years there has been various positive recognition of Eastview as being one of the safest malls in the state,” said Povero. “We’re looking at current events and working and planning with management at Eastview in an effort to enhance safety for shoppers. It’s a working, win-win partnership that keeps people safe and provides an enjoyable shopping experience.”
Povero said much of the credit goes to the mall’s security staff, which communicates regularly with retail staff about loss prevention issues.
State and county law enforcement agencies have what Povero calls a “closest car concept,” meaning the officers — county deputies or state police — nearest to the call respond.
“We don’t want calls for service left hanging,” Povero said. “The state is a valuable partner in maintaining that presence at Eastview.”
Eastview General Manager Mike Kauffman declined to comment on security and safety, saying simply, “We keep all of our emergency preparations and training confidential.”
Mall Marketing Director Wendy Roche added in an email, “We always have, and will continue to do everything in our power to keep the shopping experience and shopper safety a top priority — year-round, not just during the holiday season.”
On the mall’s website, Security Manager Lt. Fran Beswick encourages shoppers to contact his office at (585) 223-2930 if they observe anything suspicious or are in need of any assistance. Security is provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the office is near the public restrooms in the food court.

— Always lock your vehicle.
— Place all valuables, including electronics and merchandise, in the trunk of your vehicle.
— Remove GPS devices from the windshield or dashboard mount.
— Leave your Social Security card at home or in a safety deposit box.
— Walk in groups to your vehicle.
— Have your keys in hand while walking to your vehicle.
— Report suspicious activity to Eastview Mall security or sheriff’s deputies.

— Escorts to or from vehicles.
— Jump starts for drained vehicle batteries.
— Unlocking vehicles when keys are inadvertently left inside.
— First aid assistance, including defibrillators.
— Lost and found property.
— Assistance with lost children.