PEABODY — The Peabody Police Outreach Center at the Northshore Mall is getting a new location and something else one might find appropriate in a sprawling retail shopping center: a makeover.
By early April, the outreach center, now located next to Chipotle Mexican Grill, will move to a new space on the opposite side of the mall, sharing an entrance with the Simon Youth Peabody Learning Academy.
The new entrance is located to the right of Macy’s as you face the department store. The space, formerly part of the Kitchens Etc. store, was vacant.
“It’s an outreach center,” said police Chief Tom Griffin, “so that if people have issues, they don’t have to necessarily go all the way downtown to the police station. They can find us right here. And it’s going to give us space for the guys that are working up in this area of the city, if they have reports that they need to write or things like that. There’s going to be computers here that access the station.”
In addition to being a resource for officers, Griffin said the new outreach center will have a conference room for community meetings. Griffin has spoken with the Healthy Peabody Collaborative, which focuses on underage substance use, about running programs at the expanded outreach center.
“It’s really going to be a nice space for the police department and for members of the community, ” he said.
The mall is donating the space, furnishings and fit-out, said Mark Whiting, the mall manager. The mall has provided a police outreach center for the entire 21 years Whiting has been at the mall.
“It’s been a great, great platform for us to really work together, to reduce any kind of potential criminal issue at the property,” Whiting said, adding that “basically it’s been highly successful.”
The cooperation extends to the many training events held after 9/11 that have been coordinated by the police, he noted.
The new center will have a reception area, two offices, a general work space, a conference room and bathrooms.
‘A great relationship’
One officer is assigned to the outreach center permanently during the year, and a second is assigned to it during the holiday shopping season. The officer who patrols this part of the city also works out of the outreach center.
On weekends, the mall provides extra officers at the mall, who check in at the center before heading out to do a “walk-and-talk” patrol, Griffin said.
During the holidays, there could be seven or eight officers at the mall “through the goodwill of the mall, primarily,” Griffin said. “They have us up here and I think it’s a great relationship for us to be seen up here and I think it makes the public feel very comfortable interacting with our officers when they are with security and we are working together. I think it puts people at ease and makes them feel comfortable at the mall.”
While officers do deal with shoplifters, Whiting said the mall is seeing historically low levels of theft. He credits the efforts of Crime Prevention Officer John Nelson and Detective Ralph Scopa.
The officers work on organized retail crime, and Nelson runs a monthly meeting with retailers to talk about different trends, the chief said. Whiting said other retailers from around the North Shore also attend this meeting.
“I think every merchant probably has John’s cell phone number,” Griffin said.
Griffin said the new location of the outreach center has an advantage over the old one, in that it provides direct access to the mall’s common area from a nearby elevator.
Whiting said there is a benefit to officers being able to have quick access to the mall’s common areas. In the old center, they had to come into the mall through another hallway. And because it’s next to the Simon Youth Peabody Learning Academy, officers will be able to interact with students.
The academy educates 25 to 30 high school students a year who are at risk of dropping out.
“We love having the kids on property, and we’ve had over 100 kids graduate from the school,” Whiting said. “… The collaborative opportunities that will be created through the school system and the Peabody Police Department I think will be great.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.