A brazen robbery of an $8,000 watch, caught on surveillance video, is the last straw for owners of a Horton Plaza jewelry store.
They’re furious about what they say is a lack of security and safety, at the downtown San Diego mall, and they’re showing their anger and frustration by shutting down their store and leaving Horton Plaza after the holidays.
They say the “grab-and-run” theft at their location Wednesday pushed them over the edge.
“We got robbed last night because there is no security,” said Gloria Levi, co-owner of Bert Levi Family Jewelers. “It is dark. It is very scary here. You call security, and they show up ten minutes later.”
The clerk was showing the suspect an $8,000 Rolex Wednesday afternoon. Surveillance video showed the man holding the watch, weighing it in his hands for a few seconds, and then bolting towards the door.
The clerk told NBC 7 she chased him out of the store and down the stairs, to the First Avenue side of the mall.
“And I yelled, ‘He’s taking the Rolex. He’s a thief. Somebody stop him! Somebody stop him!’” said Zahra Issazahed. She said two people tried to stop the thief, but no mall security responded to her calls for help.
“It’s too dangerous," Levi said. “I don’t want to stay here.”
Her family’s store on the mall’s second floor was one of Horton Plaza’s first tenants when the mall opened in 1985. It has been there for more than 30 years, except for a one-year absence, when it closed temporarily after Levi’s father-in-law retired.
Levi said business had been good, but started declining about five years ago, when some shops left the mall. That retail exodus continued and took a turn for the worse last year when Nordstrom closed its doors.
Since then, more stores and restaurants have closed, and entire sections of the mall are now empty.
"All we see is homeless,” said Issazahed, the robbery victim. She said some tourists shop in the mall, but ask her, ‘Why do you have so many homeless here?’”
Gloria Levi also blames the mall’s owners, Westfield Corporation, for cutting back on free parking. "I mean, who in their right mind is going to come to Horton Plaza and pay for parking?” Levi said. “If I was shopping, I wouldn't come here and pay.”
Levi said the store’s lease expires in January, but the family had considered staying open on a month-to-month basis, in 2018.
But Levi said Wednesday's robbery, the decline of the mall, and, most importantly, the lack of what she said is effective, well-trained security, changed her family’s plan. “The robbery is the last straw,” Levi said. “It’s too dangerous.”
The Levi family will consolidate its business at their second location, on University Avenue in Hillcrest, next to the Ralphs and Trader Joe’s stores.
In response to the Levis’ complaints, a Westfield spokesperson told NBC 7, “The safety and security of our customers, employees, retailers and facilities is of primary importance, always. Substantial resources are devoted to security matters."
The mall owners also said they're getting help from police and the City of San Diego to deal with the "significant public health and safety issues in downtown San Diego."