2017 will go down as one of the most violent years according to Columbus police reports. In addition to having reported the highest number of 140 homicides according to 10TV, there were numerous robberies and thefts recorded according to the Columbus Police Department.
One of the most popular destinations in Central Ohio did not escape this trend. At Easton Town Center, more than 100 fights have been reported to Columbus police since 2014. Many people, especially teens, now feel unsafe when visiting Easton.
“A group of friends and I were walking into the mall when a group of boys walked by us. They started catcalling and said something like, ‘wow, I’ve never seen a real model before,’ to me, and we continued into the mall away from them. About an hour later, we were in Build-A- Bear and the same group of boys came into the store. There was no way they could’ve known we were there, so they must’ve been following us. They kept saying things like, ‘if I buy a bear, can I take you home?” and trying to put their arms around us. It was just really unsettling and creepy,” junior Miranda Edgar said.
Not only have guests experienced uneasiness due to suspicious people and other disturbances, some employees, especially females, have also felt unsafe on Easton grounds.
“At Easton, they provide security that patrols and employees can also call 24/7. I have never felt unsafe during any time of the day there, even walking late at night, around 1 a.m. on Black Friday. However, I am also male. I have never noticed violence there and I have never thought about changing jobs because of it. However, I have had female coworkers ask me to walk them to their cars if they feel uncomfortable,” former Easton Homage employee, Ethan Clement said.
Some employees at the shopping center take extra measures to ensure their safety.
“I have never received formal training, but I usually look for people walking in groups with hats or hoods on, and walking behind me at the same distance for a couple different turns. Mainly staying alert does the trick,” Clement said.
Guest Relations Senior Manager, Roxanne Nally and Dustin Ellsworth, Director of Security, both claim that Easton experiences extremely low incidences of disruptive behavior. There are significant resources used to try to ensure the safety of shoppers and workers including video surveillance, Columbus police officers and their own security personnel.
“Our security procedures are constantly reviewed and adjusted based on feedback from local, state and federal authorities as well as national security experts contracted by Easton. Given the times in which we live, this is not only prudent, it is required,” Ellsworth said.
Easton is working hard to make sure that they keep shoppers and employees safe. Utilizing many resources including their own security and establishing safety programs is a priority.
“We monitor pedestrian traffic closely during all hours of operation. Our security and youth ambassador teams are diligent about maintaining the Parental Escort Policy and Easton Code of Conduct which is posted at all entrances to the Station Building. Easton’s code of conduct is applicable to all patrons. The parental escort policy prohibits children under the age of 16 from remaining onsite after 6 p.m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian," Nally said.