LONSBERRY: Syracuse Mall Got Shot Between The Eyes

Kiss it goodbye.

Destiny USA, the megamall in Syracuse.

Kiss it goodbye.

Because it is clear the cops and the owners and the politicians don’t give a damn.

When one more Black Friday brings one more violent mass disruption, you’ve got to figure that policing and protecting that facility and its patrons is not on anybody’s priority list.

When you have to grab your kids and run screaming with thousands of others out of a mall, you tend not to want to go back. There’s something about “shelter in place” that doesn’t build confidence. When your life depends on the manager of a t-shirt store herding you to the back and putting down the security gate, you become an Amazon shopper.

Here’s what happened: On the busiest day of the year, some guy got shot in the food court. The bullet hit the mall right between the eyes.

That was this year’s Black Friday attack. Last year’s Black Friday attack was a roving knife fight that shut down two levels of the mall.

Maybe it’s the L-tryptophan in the Thanksgiving turkey.

Or maybe it’s the idiots at the Pyramid Companies and City Hall who can’t understand that they’re killing the goose that laid the golden egg. By not making public safety a priority at the mall, the perception becomes that the mall is not safe.

When mama doesn’t think she’s safe swinging by the Orange Julius, she doesn’t go back. She doesn’t let her children go there, she won’t look for a job there. The fear of danger is death to a mall.

Google “Irondequoit Mall” and see what I mean.

Or, more to the point, pretend you’re a Canadian and Google “Destiny USA.” Then count to 3. Because that is approximately how long it will be before that Canadian Googles “Eastview.”

Much is at risk here. And not just the monstrosity by the lake. Chronic failure to secure the mall threatens not just it and its tenants, but the government of Onondaga County.

How does that work?

Sales tax is a crucial part of the county budget. Destiny USA is the largest source of Onondaga County sales tax. When Destiny USA gets a cold, Onondaga County sneezes.

More to the point, when Destiny USA dies, the New Process Gear water tower won’t be the only standing monument to Syracuse’s economic collapse.

So why the hell is the violence allowed to continue? For years, at every stabbing and gang assault, I have chided Syracuse officials about mall security. And for years, it has only gotten worse. And now, for two years running, the largest retail day of the year has been marred by mall violence and panic. Put another way, as the shopping season has opened for the last two years, the evening news has had a big reminder that Destiny SA is where people go to bleed.

Last night, police Chief Kenton Buckner created the impression that there was nothing his department could do, that people are uncontrollable. He said that if he had had 1,000 officers at the mall it wouldn’t have been any different.

Bulls—t.

When your job is public safety and you don’t have public safety, uh, that’s your fault.

His, and his boss’s and his boss’s predecessor.

The Syracuse Police Department is significantly understaffed, and is further hemmed in by the usual crowd of cop-hating professors, pastors and politicians. Too few cops with too many rules and that means the gangs run the streets. And sometimes that sloshes in the bucket. Because if you can get there from Skaneateles, you can also get there from the Near West Side.

And the mall isn’t safe because the city isn’t safe.

When a 20-something gets shot on a Friday night on Lodi Street, well, we presume his mother cares. But when a 20-something gets shot on a Friday night in the food court, well,you’re on the national news.

And the way to keep the food court safe is to make Lodi Street safe. If the Friday Night Knife and Gun Club ceases to exist, it won’t hold its meetings at your mall.

And if you don’t have the balls to make your city safe, then you better double down on making your mall safe.

Because Destiny USA is just about out of chances.

When the headlines about your mall are shootings, stabbings and back-rent lawsuits against bankrupt tenants, well, that’s not a good sign.

If it takes turning Destiny USA into an armed fortress to stop the crime, then you better start doing it. The mayor, the chief, and the owners should sit down and figure this out.

Because that oversized mall is the last beating heart of retail vitality in most of Central New York.

Waterloo and Victor aren’t so far away, and UPS delivers.

And when people lose a taste for Destiny USA, you can turn the lights out on Syracuse.

Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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