“Tis the Season,” said John Alexander of Toms River when asked his feelings on the involving drugs and guns in on December 13.
“It isn’t going to stop me from coming to the mall,” he said, and perhaps that is true for many people this time of year. However, some shoppers are more concerned and Alexander, "although not too worried" did expect to add additional security patrols to what he feels are currently “non-existent.”
When contacted about a possible increase in security at the mall, Denise, a mall employee who declined to give her last name, said that "security is always increased around the busy holiday season and if any shopper has a concern all they need to do is approach the Guest Services kiosk in the mall or at any of the stores."
When asked if mall security would walk concerned shoppers to their cars in the evening if requested, she said to “just ask.”
Toms River Patch had some additional questions about mall operations, which were deferred to the public relations firm representing the mall. Calls placed to the firm since Friday were not immediately returned.
Update Dec. 20: The Ocean County Mall released a statement on holiday security, and said: "The safety and security of our shoppers, retail tenants and employees is our top priority at Ocean County Mall. As the holiday shopping season is one of our busiest times of year, we adjust our mall security and local police presence to compensate for our extended mall hours and increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic on our properties."
The mall maintains a close relationship with local law enforcement, but the exact number of security was not released as that could compromise security, according to the mall.
At , Alexis, a cashier working the day the robbery happened, said she’s “not worried; our security guys are really good here.”
Aside from the mall having extra security guards on hand for the influx of shoppers, a spokesperson for the Toms River confirmed that Toms River Police have added officer patrols to the mall parking lots since the Dec. 13 incident.
That afternoon, two men fled from the back seat of a car in the JC Penney parking lot, swiping prescription drugs and cell phones. They ran to a second car and were chased by the men from the first car. Another man sitting in the second pulled a black semi-automatic gun on his persuers. With the coordination of South Toms River police, four men were arrested after the incident.
Terry Foote, a longtime resident of Toms River, was pleased to hear of an increased police and security presence, but said she is "more nervous about going to the mall after what happened last week and [she] won’t go in the evening unless [she] is with someone else.”
The Dec. 13 incident wasn't targeting shoppers, but the Toms River Police Department still warned it's always wise — no matter what time of year — to be aware of your surroundings.
While the mall is especially busy at this time of year, "all patrons of the mall should be alert of their surroundings and their possessions at all times,” said the spokeswoman.