Jan 10, 2014 7:04 PM by April Hansen, KSBY
Santa Maria city leaders say the Town Center Mall parking structure is safe after three women, including one in her 80s, were robbed of their purses near the mall earlier this week.
Three teens have been arrested.
KSBY went to find out if shoppers feel safe. Some of our viewers did have concerns.
City leaders say they have gone to great lengths to make sure shoppers feel safe parking at the mall. For example, the city renovated the lighting back in 2010. City spokesman Mark van de Kamp says they replaced amber colored lights with brighter energy-efficient lighting on all three levels of the structure.
The results are better visibility for shoppers and employees at nearby stores, offices and government buildings.
But there are mixed feelings from some locals about the structure now.
"It's dim. It's dark, so I wouldn't say I feel 100% safe," said Sonya Balatgek.
"I've never had a problem. I've never had concerns parking in here," said Bobbie Murchison.
Balatgek says she normally parks on the other side of the mall because she just doesn't want to take the chance
"I prefer to park closer to the building because it's kind of dimly lit," said Balatgek.
Van de Kamp says a park ranger and on-duty Santa Maria police patrol the mall area every day, and last fall the city beefed up security because of higher foot traffic after the movie theatre opened.
But mall employee Michael Cole says the structure could still use some updates.
"The lights are really bad and like half of them are out and the other half is really dim so I could see how people wouldn't feel safe," said Cole.
Santa Maria police say purse snatching does not happen often in the city, but they say shoppers should still be cautious. Be familiar with your surroundings, they say, and if you are carrying a purse make sure it has a longer handle that's around your neck and torso rather than just in your hand.
The city funded the parking structure renovations with a one-time funding grant through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.
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