This story was corrected at 3:30 p.m. on April 2, 2013. An explanation follows the story.
Every Saturday morning, Gaithersburg resident Omar Pancoast teaches his weekly chess lessons to students in the food court at Lakeforest Mall.
The mall has changed since the chess club started in the same space 13 years ago, he said.
“They’ve beefed up security,” Pancoast said. “Other than a high school crowd getting rowdy, we haven’t had anything happen in a long time.”
Safety and security at Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg have been a hot topic in recent years, with several high-profile incidents like the slaying of a mall employee in 2006 and a murder at the nearby bus stop in 2010. In the past 12 months, there have been three reported strong-arm robberies — two in the parking lot and one at Macy’s — during daylight hours, according to data from the Gaithersburg Police Department.
“We do have shoplifters and we do have disorderly individuals,” police department spokesperson Officer Dan Lane said.
But, in Lane’s perspective, crime at the mall, which is at 701 Russell Ave., has remained the same.
“It’s the same amount of people that are coming to the mall,” he said. “You have the one little small percent of those who want to commit a crime.”
Since January 2010, four to six serious incidents per year, which include burglary, assault, robbery and carjacking, have occurred on mall property, according to data from the Gaithersburg Police Department.
“We do have a lot of officers work there part-time, in collaboration with mall security,” in an effort to curb incidents like those, Lane said.
Lakeforest Mall officials declined to comment on the topic of mall security.
The mall’s current owners, Stamford, Conn.-based Five Mile Capital Partners, bought the property for about $100 million in February. The mall’s management, provided by Boca Raton, Fla. company Urban Retail Properties, LLC, has declined to comment on its plans for the mall and mall security.
Longtime Montgomery Village resident Bob Hydorn said safety at the mall has improved since the new owner took over, but the nearby bus stop at the intersection of Lost Knife Road and Odendhal Avenue has been an issue.
“Whenever you congregate that many buses in that spot, you’re bound to have loitering,” he said.
Lane said the bus stop has been a challenge for police.
“There are so many people coming and going...it makes it a little bit difficult to see what would be our way of tackling this issue,” he said.
The best defense for shoppers, Lane said, is to stay alert.
This story incorrectly listed Urban Retail Properties as the owner of Lakeforest Mall. The owner is Five Mile Capital Partners.