Arresting Mall Developments

Discussion
Mar 26, 2007

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network

The United Kingdom is considering setting up temporary holding cells for suspects of crime in British stores, supermarkets and shopping centers.

Under the proposal, the Home Office, the government department responsible for internal affairs such as law and order, suggests setting up a national network of “short-term holding facilities” across England and Wales in busy urban areas. The department claims police spend too much time at the station processing low-level offenders (i.e., shoplifters, pickpockets) or checking their identities. Temporary jail cells would help the police work faster in confirming identity and deciding whether to bring charges so that they can get back to catching more hardened criminals as quickly as possible.

Under the proposal, suspects would be locked up for a maximum of four hours in small cells with a clear plastic wall on one side so they can be seen by custody officers. The more controversial part of the proposal calls for an expansion of police powers, including taking fingerprints, photographs and DNA of suspects – regardless of the offense they are suspected of – and storing them in databases.

Although the document only contains recommendations, talks have already started to open the first of these temporary holding cells in the well-known department store, Selfridges, in London’s Oxford Street.

Not everyone likes the idea, even though it does mean enabling the police to be operational again more quickly. Gareth Crossman, policy director of civil rights group, Liberty, told the Guardian, “The government is fast replacing the best traditions of English law with a chilling presumption of guilt.”

Discussion questions: What do you think of the idea of jails in shopping malls? Will shoppers feel safer or intimidated? Do you think American retailers would accept the presence of jail cells on their premises?

Questions ought to be asked about retail and consumer reactions. None of the U.K. press coverage made any mention of what staff and managers felt about turning shopping premises into jails.

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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14 Comments on "Arresting Mall Developments"


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Jeff Weitzman
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Jeff Weitzman
15 years 1 month ago

I agree that the real story here is the proposed expansion of police powers. A proper holding cell setup wouldn’t be a bad idea if it resulted in suspects being released or processed in far less time than ferrying them around town. Nothing in the article as I read it required the facility or its occupants to be “on display.” A facility built off the existing security office doesn’t heighten the police presence and serves the purpose.

But fingerprinting, DNA sampling, etc. for offenses as minor as littering are part of a disturbing trend away from civil liberties in the UK (the U.S. has its own trends to worry about, to be sure). Not being a resident I can’t speak to the mood of the country, but this (perhaps overused already) quote from Franklin resonates: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Jason Brasher
Guest
Jason Brasher
15 years 1 month ago

There is a little bit of a reality here; something of this extent already exists in many retail stores today. The public is just not exposed to it and it is not officially called a holding cell. If they hold you until the authorities arrive to process you in their car or take you downtown, what is the difference? Time.

Other concerns seem to be about the quality of the process. To me, that is more of a training and equipment issue than anything. I would much rather be cleared at the store than have to take time out of my day to be held in an overly busy central processing unit.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

The issue of “place” is minor in comparison to what Bernice called “the more controversial part of the proposal.” The UK has been on a path of increased police power and decreased civil liberty for decades. Anything that exacerbates that trend is troubling. If police can be more efficient in exercising their current authority, fine. But using the shill of “returning them to the real work of catching hardened criminals faster” is disingenuous at the least.

Scott Turley
Guest
Scott Turley
15 years 1 month ago
In my previous career, I was a corrections officer dealing with adult felony offenders and worked for a short time with the U.S. Marshals transporting federal prisoners. The idea of setting up a holding cell in a mall is a recipe for disaster. There is a great deal to consider when incarcerating anyone, even if it is for a short time. The first thing is safety–not only for the mall security personnel but for the detainee. There would have to be multiple cells to separate the male, female, juvenile, and violent offenders. One could only imagine the press if an assault occurred on a juvenile detainee while in mall custody. Additionally, a significant amount of capital would have to be invested to ensure that the holding cells were compliant with the American Correctional Association accreditation requirements or face possible lawsuits for “cruel and unusual” treatment. One thing I learned in my years of corrections–the longer you hold someone, the longer they have to contemplate escape. The more determined a detainee is to escape, the more… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 1 month ago
The UK, birthplace and perpetuator of ongoing, over-the-top soccer hooliganism–necessitating jails in sports venues–is now experimenting with jails in shopping malls. Perhaps this will work, since the officials in charge will be only slightly behind the curve instead of decades behind the curve in applying this sort of solution to their ongoing soccer embarrassment. Or not. Here in the U.S., we publish the names and locations of convicted sex offenders online, are considering saddling multiply-convicted DUI (DWI) offenders with bright pink license plates, and have miniature holding cells in football stadia. We no longer follow the English tradition of displaying lawbreakers in “the stocks,” but the UK practice of placing suspected criminals in clear-sided cubicles (viewable only to law enforcement personnel–not the public) seems efficient. For those ex law enforcement officials concerned about potentially mixing people of various sexes, ages, and tendencies-towards-violence in mall jails, please consider the stadium model. It seems to be working just fine. As a fan of the comic strip “Drabble,” where the (typically stupid and clueless) father is employed as… Read more »
Derek Leslie
Guest
Derek Leslie
15 years 1 month ago

Dear M. Jericho Banks, your sarcasm towards the UK is funny but as a Scotsman I take offense at your labeling of UK football hooligans. This is predominantly an ENGLISH football hooligan problem. The UK does have many social and crime issues related to drunken yobs and hooligans but let’s be honest, it is still a far safer country than the US. Just remind everyone how many gun crimes/people murdered there were in the US last year?

Anyway, back to the point of this article. This is a ludicrous idea. Most crime committed in malls is carried out by professional shoplifters who are serial offenders. I would have thought keeping out would have been a better policy. I also agree with the comments regarding making this more visible to the public–it will only frighten them away. Let the police do the policing–next thing we’ll be empowering security guards with full police powers despite the fact they have minimal training, are of dubious quality and are paid a pittance.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 1 month ago

Thanks to Derek Leslie, we now understand that soccer hooliganism is not a UK problem, but “an ENGLISH football hooligan problem.” An elegant clarification.

By the way, what’s a “yob?” Anyone? Anyone? Mr. Bueller? Ferris Bueller?

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

If the police use biometrics (electronic fingerprints, electronic handprints, and facial recognition technology) and digital video surveillance recording, the holding period might only require a few minutes, not 4 hours. When New York City got serious about arresting people for subway fare evasion, there was a free bonus: the police found thousands of people who had evaded arrest warrants on other, more serious charges.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

I think any time you put reminders of crime on display, it gives the impression that the facility is unsafe. Mock police cars parked in front of a store makes me feel uneasy. It tells me that there are no policemen at the store and that the store has a security problem. The presence of security guards makes me feel unsafe. Why? Because I know they are being paid near minimum wage and are not about take any risks. And again, it tells me there are security problems. Putting holding cells in shopping malls sends out the same message.

I know a retailer in a difficult neighborhood in Brooklyn. Their security problems are minimal. If there is a problem, criminals better pray the police catch them before the retailer does.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

If it’s a more efficient use of time for the police, why not? Many people don’t realize the amount of paperwork and back-and-forth ferrying police routinely do, taking away time from their “real” work. Done properly, shoppers never need be aware that there’s a holding pen off to the side somewhere.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Obviously you couldn’t do that to U.S. citizens (unless of course you tied it to a reality television show). But, I agree any visible detention would reinforce the idea there are better places to shop.

Jim Dakis
Guest
Jim Dakis
15 years 1 month ago

I once worked in a mall where we had a police annex office, but it was a PR office. It was nice to have them there, but I am glad they weren’t parading handcuffed suspects around. I have also lived near neighborhoods where the police had a sub-station in apartment complexes for one simple reason–they were already going there so often, it cut down on travel time and was suppose to deter crime. Is that the message we want in our shopping malls? I work in a mall now, and can’t help but think that if we had anything resembling a police station there, people would immediately wonder whether or not it was safe to shop there any more. There are already police cars up there too often apprehending shoplifters and breaking up scuffles in the parking lot. Do we really want to have the public thinking that things have gotten so bad that we need to have the police move in?

Barry Wise
Guest
Barry Wise
15 years 1 month ago

Putting holding jails and other law enforcement services closer to where the misdemeanor offenses take place for the sake of keeping police officers closer to the areas they work in is a good idea. However, showing off the jails and prisoners will not work. Shoppers will not feel comfortable seeing the prisoners locked up and putting prisoners on public display will not significantly reduce retail theft.

Jerry Tutunjian
Guest
Jerry Tutunjian
15 years 1 month ago

I was touring one of the big UK supermarket chains with a company executive when this story hit the headlines. His reaction was that the government and everybody else is indulging in a bit of trial-balloon. It will not happen. Somebody was thinking out loud. The newspapers liked the newsy item and ran with it. A few months ago there was similar talk that UK supermarkets would/could/should provide hospital services on site. Heart transplants at ASDA anyone?

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