Safety tips for holiday shopping

CBL and Associates, which operates Citadel and Northwoods malls, offers shoppers the following safety tips while frequenting those complexes: Make a note of where you parked so that you are not wandering around the lot after your shopping. Know where you place your credit card or checkbook after a purchase. Be certain to put them away. (Sometimes people leave the store and leave their card or wallet behind).Don't keep large amounts of cash in your wallet or purse. Take in just what you need to spend and come back later. When getting money from an automatic teller machine, don't let people crowd you too closely. When taking purchases to your car, lock them out of sight in the trunk rather than exposed in the back seat. Keep an eye on your packages when you stop to rest, and don't forget to pick them back up. Keep safety in mind at all times. Be aware of your surroundings.Don't hesitate to ask for assistance if you feel uncomfortable. A store associate or mall employee can get security for you.

As shoppers scoured Citadel Mall for last-minute gifts on Christmas Eve, one man's holiday shopping took a turn for the worse when he was robbed at gunpoint.

To offer tips

Anyone with information in Monday's armed robbery is asked to call investigators at 720-3034 or Crime Stoppers at 554-1111.

He wasn't roaming the parking lot or stepping in some dark corner where he didn't belong. He was minding his own business in a bathroom when a gunman with bad teeth cornered him in a stall and stole all his money, Charleston police said.

Mall officials said such incidents are rare at the West Ashley shopping complex, and they said they take customer safety very seriously.

Monday's armed robbery, which happened near Citadel's Palmetto Moon store, was the latest in a series of incidents to challenge the mall's security in recent months.

On Nov. 12 a man told police he was waiting to pick up his wife outside Belk about 9:30 p.m. when a man with a gun approached his car.

The gunman told the man to get out of the car and lie on the ground, an incident report states. Then he drove off with the car and the man's cellphone.

In September, Charleston County deputies arrested and charged three people with third-degree assault and battery after a 20-year-old woman was attacked in the mall's parking lot.

The woman told police her attackers kicked her car and slammed it with crowbars and shovels as she tried to speed away.

Charleston police Cpl. Fred Bowie said an armed robbery recently happened at the mall's food court as well, but he did not specify when that incident occurred.

Citadel Mall spokeswoman Leigh Burnett said 800,000 shoppers frequented the mall in November and December. She said she is confident in the mall's safety, but would not elaborate on any specific security polices practiced there.

“The safety and security of our customers is always a primary concern for us as a managing team,” Burnett said.

With 1.5 million shoppers, Northwoods Mall received more traffic than Citadel during the holiday months, Burnett said. Both malls are operated by CBL & Associates Properties Inc.

North Charleston Deputy Police Chief Scott Deckard said city police did not respond to any major security issues at Northwoods during the holiday shopping season.

Burnett said shoppers at either mall should call security any time they feel uncomfortable.

As for the most recent robbery at the Citadel Mall, Charleston police Thursday released one of the few clues as to who could be responsible for the crime, a surveillance image of a man in a black jacket with the word “Reds” emblazoned across the back.

Police are asking for help identifying the man in the image. Bowie described the person as a black man with medium skin tone, close-cropped hair, between 5 feet, 6 inches and 5 feet, 7 inches tall, and 28 to 30 years old.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

Because of incorrect information provided to The Post and Courier, earlier versions of this story incorrectly stated there had been a shooting at Northwoods Mall in March. While police were investigating a March shooting that took place on Ashley Phosphate Road, the shooting victim told police he had been robbed and assaulted in the mall earlier in the day.