Dan Bewley, News On 6
MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma -- With a flair of pomp and circumstance, Muskogee Police christened a new substation Friday. It's a place where officers can write reports and residents can file complaints and it's inside Arrowhead Mall.
"I think it's probably a good idea, with all the stuff that's happened recently in Muskogee," Karyn Zuby said.
Zuby is talking about last April's deadly shooting inside the mall. One person died, five others were injured and four people were arrested.
"I wouldn't bring my kids here for a while," Emilie Hensley said at the time of the shooting.
Ten months later and Emilie Hensley has a newborn. She's not concerned now about walking around the mall, especially that police have taken up permanent residence.
"So we can be safe and bring our kids to the mall and not have to worry about ducking and hiding," she said.
"It's a win, win situation," Scott Stephenson said.
Scott Stephenson, the mall's general manager, says the mall and police had talked about opening a substation here before the shooting but afterwards is when the ball really got rolling.
"I think everyone is feeling more of a sense of security," Stephenson said. "The mall has bounced back, we've seen traffic is back to normal, sales are back to normal."
The mall is donating the space, which includes utilities, so Muskogee Police won't have to pay anything. The chief says it will be staffed first with volunteers and a part time officer in the late afternoons during the week.
"The idea is to bring people to Muskogee, to shop in Muskogee, and to make them feel safe," Muskogee Police Chief Rex Eskridge said.
"I think it's a good deal," Brian Karnes said.
Brian Karnes, who owns Gameday, says store owners in the mall are excited to see Muskogee Police nearby and hopes it helps boost the bottom line.
"With all the stuff that's happened in the past, it makes the customers feel more comfortable," he said.
Muskogee Police plans to eventually have an officer stationed at the mall full time but, the chief says it all depends on how well the new substation is received.