HOBART | Sisters Jackie Bundy and Colleen Diaz were among the throng of shoppers Thursday at Westfield Southlake mall looking to complete their holiday lists.
Diaz, who lives in Hammond, and Bundy, who lives in Paris, Ill., said they feel it's a safe environment.
"I do come to the mall to shop during the day and not late at night," Diaz said.
It's for shoppers like that Hobart police will continue to provide saturation patrols within the U.S. 30 retail corridor and inside the mall, Police Chief Jeffery White said.
"It's our intention to keep the mall a safe area for honest, well-mannered citizens to shop and enjoy. We will do what we need to do to discourage and stop misconduct and any type of violence or threat of violence.
"If that is the intent of a young person, or group of young people, they need to find someplace else to go," White said.
Police stepped up their patrols at the mall area in late November, at the start of the holiday season, after meeting with mall officials to discuss an action plan in light of a Nov. 10 shooting incident.
The mall, on U.S. 30 east of Mississippi Street, was evacuated about 6:30 p.m. Nov. 10 after a shot was fired in one of the mall's open areas. The incident occurred after two groups of youths got into a fight.
Four juveniles were arrested, and later charged, but there were no injuries in the shooting.
The zero-tolerance plan set up by the mall and police has included strongly enforcing the mall's code of conduct, mall general manager Peter Karonis said.
"It's absolutely a safe place to be," Karonis said.
Karonis said he couldn't comment on how many visitors there have been to the mall this holiday season or whether the numbers had increased or decreased.
"It's been a great season," Karonis said.
During a walk around the mall Thursday, Assistant Police Chief Vance Thompson agreed there have not been any further problems this season.
Thompson termed the shooting on Nov. 10 "an isolated incident."
"Everyone has been behaving themselves," Thompson said.
And, when the holidays end, that won't mean the end of strong police presence at the mall and in the U.S. 30 retail corridor, White said.
"We will tend to do a hit-or-miss, so they won't know which night to expect us," White said.
White said the increased police presence will include spring break and summer vacation because most of the problems that arise involve young people.
"Sooner or later they'll get the idea that if they want to cause trouble they will have to be somewhere other than the mall," White said.