The crisp $100 bill that Megan Carpenter got for Christmas was still in her pocket when a man cornered the teenager outside a Crossgates Mall restroom and demanded that she fork over the cash.
The man kept one hand jammed in his coat pocket, and Carpenter worried it might be holding a weapon. She was alone and frightened in an isolated hallway, but able to make mental notes of his build, clothing and hairstyle as he snatched the bill from her hand and dashed down a nearby escalator.
Megan’s mom, Lori Carpenter, said the man frightened her daughter. “When her boyfriend came out of the bathroom, they went to find someone. They went to customer service,” she said.
Instead of calling 911, which police said should have been done, the person working at the information desk called mall security. It took about 30 minutes and two calls for the security guard to get there, and police still weren’t called, Lori Carpenter contends.
“I think there’s definitely some security issues there at the mall,” she said. “There are definitely some problems with their procedures.”
Guilderland Police Chief James Murley, whose department handles hundreds of calls a year at the mall and has a substation there, agreed with Carpenter that the incident was poorly handled.
“It should’ve been a call into our 911,” Murley said. “It usually is and it was not.”
Initially, the security guard allegedly told the 14-year-old they may not be able to get her money back.
“The security guard who showed up, rather than helping my daughter or calling the police, told the girl if she didn’t know the serial numbers on the bill, they didn’t have a way of helping her,” Carpenter said. “He then told her she can walk out to the bus stop with him to look for the guy. She was reluctant to leave the mall with this man, even though he was a security guard.”
As the teenagers and the security guard walked through the mall, they ran into a Guilderland police officer on his way back from an unrelated call. The officer brought the youths to the police substation and took a report as Lori Carpenter arrived to help her daughter.
By this time, almost two hours had passed since the robbery. Despite the teenager’s detailed description of the suspect, there would be no manhunt.
Mark Wagner, Crossgates’ manager, declined to answer questions about the incident or say whether the mall has a policy to call police if a crime takes place there.
“It’s a police matter and we’re not going to comment on any police matters,” Wagner said.
Amy Raimo, marketing manager at nearby Colonie Center mall, said their mall has a policy that police are to be called in response to any criminal activity.
“We work very closely with the town of Colonie Police Department and we don’t hesitate to call them for any reason at all,” Raimo said.
Lori Carpenter said Wagner has declined to return her telephone calls. The mall’s security director has called her several times and said he will discipline the security guard for his handling of the incident.
Carpenter was at least hoping for a gesture of goodwill from the mall and asked the security director if they would consider giving her daughter a gift certificate for the ordeal. The answer was no, she said.