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Mall Cops and Minor Crime
by Ron Davis
Security personnel at a Wisconsin shopping center used quick response and expertise to nail a juvenile who stole a car from the center’s parking lot.
The shopping center is Racine Mall in Racine, and the theft of the car occurred after a woman parked it in front of a movie theater that is one of the center’s tenants. The woman later said she left the car running and the doors unlocked because she merely wanted to buy some popcorn at the theater’s concession area. Within the short time it took to make that purchase, however, her car was stolen.
Upon discovery of the theft, the woman telephoned her brother and the Racine police, which immediately notified the center’s security. Within a few minutes security personnel responded and with the help of the woman’s brother located the stolen car in another area of the shopping center.
A few minutes later, the brother spotted his sister’s car keys at a location where three black males had been standing. The woman had previously described three black males as being in the area where her car had been stolen.
Security personnel quickly located the three suspects, and a search of their clothing disclosed on one of them several compact discs that the woman said belonged to her. But the investigation also revealed that one of the suspects was under the age of 17 and was therefore legally a minor.
Police nevertheless arrested him and his two companions. On the way to the Racine police station, however, the three youths reportedly became unruly and loudly threatened mall security personnel and the arresting officers who had arrived on the scene of the crime.
The charges resulting in their arrest: “The taking and driving of a vehicle without the owner’s consent” and disorderly conduct. The minor thus faced a charge of being a party to those crimes.
At trial, the sister and a friend of the youth both testified that he “could have” been with them at the time the vehicle was stolen. Therefore, his attorney argued, their testimony provides “reasonable doubt” that he was present when the vehicle was stolen.
As for the threatening, boisterous behavior of the youth during his arrest, four police officers and a mall security guard said that they were indeed subjected to such verbal abuse.
A Wisconsin court found the youth guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” of being a party to the taking and driving of a vehicle without the owner’s consent. Based on the center’s security personnel, the judge also found the youth guilty of disorderly conduct.
On appeal of that ruling, a Wisconsin appellate court agreed that the evidence and testimony of witnesses was sufficient to find the youth guilty of the charges against him. (State of Wisconsin v. Marlon M., Slip Copy, 2009 WL 2767219 [Wis.App.])
Decision: September 2009
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