Updated at 11:19 p.m. on Friday, March 16, 2018.
“It's a great tool.”
Hamilton Place mall officials said Friday they've enhanced security, installing "a significant upgrade" to a closed-circuit camera system and hiring a 28-year former police officer to head safety.
"If you're going to commit a crime, you're going to be on a camera," said Kim Noorbergen, a retired Chattanooga Police Department captain who last year was named the mall's security director.
The high-definition camera system, purchased last year and monitored by mall security in its administrative offices, is "a high six-figure" investment, said Stacey Keating, a spokeswoman for mall owner CBL Properties.
Showing the system publicly for the first time Friday, Keating said it provides 300 views of shoppers both inside and outside the Chattanooga region's largest mall.
"It's a completely state-of-the-art system," she said.
Also, Keating said, the mall has bolstered security operations in the wake of a disturbance last month that involved a gun and caused a panic among scores of shoppers. In addition, mall officials said they continue to look at measures to ensure people's safety in the shopping center.
"We evaluate on an ongoing basis," she said.
On Feb. 24, hundreds of shoppers scattered after a concerned citizen told a security guard that a man displayed a gun on an escalator near the Journeys shoe store, according to recent testimony in Hamilton County General Sessions Court.
David Ballard, 18, was later arrested and charged in connection with the incident.
Kim Lyons, a mall spokeswoman, said Noorbergen worked for many years at the mall while she was off duty and still with the police department. Lyons said Noorbergen is both informed and vested in the job.
Noorbergen said the closed-circuit monitoring system is operable in the public areas of both mall levels.
"It can go in and isolate certain areas," she said. If a crime has been committed, Noorbergen said, the police then can view the footage so violators can be prosecuted.
Noorbergen said the high-definition character of the system also permits mall security personnel to help shoppers when a crime hasn't taken place, such as when a child is lost or someone forgot where they parked in the lot.
"It's a great tool," she said.
Chattanoogan Richard Smiddy said the enhanced closed-circuit monitoring doesn't bother him as a shopper.
"I'm in public anyway," he said. "I'm indifferent [about it]."
David Phillips of Hixson said he, too, isn't bothered by the upgraded system at the mall.
"I think it's a great idea for schools," he said, adding he would be troubled if the system was brought out into public streets.
Noorbergen said the heightened security will come into play during the upcoming Easter break for schools, when students typically head to malls and shopping centers.
She said the mall coordinates with the Chattanooga Police Department and Chief David Roddy and with off-duty officers who typically work security at the shopping center.
Lyons said the mall also has a youth escort policy and has recently broadened its use. The policy, typically enforced on Fridays and Saturdays, states that any mall visitor under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian 21 years of age or older.
In the February incident, Chattanooga police said there was no evidence of a shooting and later found three shell casings that weren't connected to the incident.
Ballard, who fled the scene during the pandemonium, faces aggravated riot, reckless endangerment and unlawful carrying or possessing of a firearm charges as a result.
A defense attorney for Ballard said someone else was responsible for causing what police called "a riot" that injured some shoppers and created property damage.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.