Monday, January 14, 2008

Rumor Mall

Someone I know, who lives in Litchfield County, recently asked me "if it's true that the Waterbury mall is going to be closed because there have been too many thefts." The person who asked me this is normally a highly intelligent person, but I guess she didn't stop to think about this one. It reminded me of when the mall opened ten years ago--there was a rumor going around the suburbs that "if you go to the Waterbury mall, someone will hide under your car, slash your ankle, and steal your purse." I don't know if there ever actually was an ankle slashing incident. The logistics seem a little too complicated to succeed, even if some idiot did try it. Even more unlikely is a scenario in which undercar ankle slashing is a regular occurrence. But, for whatever reason, people in the suburbs were eager to believe the rumor. After all, cities are dangerous, crime-ridden places, not at all like the suburbs, where nothing bad ever happens, right?

As for the mall closing because of "too many" thefts... even though this was the first time I'd heard this rumor, I flatly denied the possibility. I wish I had thought to ask what kind of thefts. I assumed she meant people stealing from the stores, but maybe the rumor is pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Actually, considering how rumors work, I'm sure the type of theft varies depending on who is telling the "story". In either case, the rumor still doesn't make sense.

The mall is always packed full of shoppers, which suggests that the many stores are all doing good business. If an individual store doesn't have enough sales to sustain itself, then that individual store will close. Not the whole mall. If an individual store is having trouble with thieves, then the store will improve its security system. If all of the stores are having trouble with thieves, the odds are that it's a specific group of people causing the problem, and it won't take long for the mall to identify them and ban them from the mall (not to mention having them arrested). The same applies to pickpockets and purse snatchers.

Maybe the mall-closing rumor got started because Shaw's closed (which had nothing to do with Waterbury or the mall--Shaw's had to close several of its stores) and because the mall couldn't afford to open early to accommodate people who were there to walk and not shop. But since the mall is always packed during regular hours, and because there don't seem to be any vacant store fronts, I can't see why anyone would believe that the entire mall is going to close. Remember the old mall? It stayed open long after it "died", and when the last store moved to the new mall, it was torn down and replaced by a Wal-Mart.

It's very easy for suburbanites to believe the worst of a city, even if crime happens in their towns. I would expect theft to be more likely in a town like Southbury or Cheshire, where residents assume that it's safe to leave doors unlocked and purses in unlocked cars. Waterbury is stuck with a bad reputation, even though it's one of the safest cities in Connecticut. People who don't worry about going to New Haven at night are afraid to come into Waterbury, even though there are often random shootings in New Haven and none in Waterbury. As recently reported, Waterbury's crime rate is the lowest since 1980. Makes me wonder how the mall can be suddenly suffering from "too many" thefts.


Ciao said...

I hear the Orthodox Jews are moving to Waterbury. Because of sabbath rules, they often chose to settle in walkable pedestrian friendly communities. I wonder how this will impact the Waterbury retail environment.

Waterbury Girl said...

A fair-sized community of Orthodox Jews began moving to the Overlook and Hillside neighborhoods several years ago. The Sabbath restriction applied only to the Sabbath, and includes very strict rules about using modern technology. Since the Sabbath is the most holy day of the week, meant for religious observance, I can't imagine that shopping is allowed on that day.

Wolcott resident said...

I live in Wolcott, a "safe" suburb, which is about a ten minute drive from Waterbury mall. Most of my friends and family frequent the mall because it is so close, and I have never in the history of the mall opening heard about ankle slashing or pick pocketing. Of course, shoplifting occurs in every mall in upper-class communities as well as in cities such as Waterbury. I have, however, heard that the Waterbury mall has or is on the brink of declaring for bankruptcy due to an attempt to increase monthly rent for individual stores, but because of the current economy, a lot of stores could not afford to pay more especially because the Waterbury mall has such a bad rep, the amount of customers has decreased. Otherwise, it's still open and packed as usual.