DES PERES, MO (KTVI) - Car thefts can be pretty common, especially this time of year. But when a thief stole gifts meant for needy families, an Illinois community came together to right this serious wrong.
Columbia, Ill. residents Addie Hohman and Kelly Landgraf adopted two needy families this holiday season for the charity Project Hope 2012.
The two women spent more than $1,000 on these families by the time they got to West County Center. After more shopping, the two returned to their car on the top floor of the mall’s parking deck.
Hohman recalls, “I said to her, that was an amazing trip, we got so much for these families, I’m so excited. And she said, don’t get too excited, let’s make sure everything’s in the car. And I said, of course everything will be in the car! And it wasn’t. It was all gone.”
The gifts were locked in the trunk to keep them out of sight, but that didn’t stop a thief, who Des Peres police say probably followed them to the mall. But there are still no suspects.
Hohman says, “We were told there were no video cameras.” Landgraf adds, “That was the first thing she asked about was, you have to pull up the surveillance. And they said, West County doesn’t have video cameras.”
Attorney Josh Myers says that could make West County Center responsible: “Cameras, lighting, security personnel are very big things that malls have to provide in terms of their security now.”
But in a statement released on Thursday, Sean Phillips with West County Center said, "West County Center has a video surveillance system on the interior and exterior of the property. We do not discuss specifics of our security program as doing so may compromise our efforts."
Fortunately, there’s a happy ending to this story. After family, friends and coworkers heard about the stolen gifts, they quickly worked to replace them, inundating Hohman and Landgraf with gifts for the needy families, adding up to significantly more than what was stolen from their car.
Hohman beams, “I’m so thankful to live in such an amazing area that people, everybody started coming out of the woodwork and giving us items for these families. So I’m hoping they have the best Christmas ever.”
Phillips says comfort and convenience are a top priority for customers and employees at West County Center.