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West Acres adds Maris museum guard in wake of heist

FARGO - West Acres mall is stationing a dedicated security guard at the Roger Maris Museum after a burglar wearing what appears to be a security guard uniform stole two valuable items of memorabilia in a middle-of-the-night heist earlier this week.

FARGO - West Acres mall is stationing a dedicated security guard at the Roger Maris Museum after a burglar wearing what appears to be a security guard uniform stole two valuable items of memorabilia in a middle-of-the-night heist earlier this week.

The thief made off with the 1961 S. Rae Hickok Belt and the 1960 Most Valuable Player plaque earned by the Fargo native during his storied professional baseball career.

"The likelihood of it happening again is pretty small, but we're not taking any chances," Property Manager Chris Heaton said Thursday, July 28.

The mall will also upgrade its security cameras, Heaton said. However, the plan to upgrade isn't a result of the break-in at the mall's Maris museum, which consists mostly of a case in the hallway of the southeast entrance.

The blurry, pixelated images of the suspect released by police the day after the burglary Tuesday, July, 26, were taken from mall surveillance videos.

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"It's not just because there is an incident. We are always looking at upgrading security," Heaton said.

West Acres has planned since the beginning of the year to overhaul its camera system and has already designed and requested bids for it.

"Unfortunately, it takes time and wasn't in place," Heaton said.

Other security measures for the museum are also being considered, but Heaton declined to discuss them until they are put into place.

Heaton said complaints about the quality of photos pulled as stills from the video are unfair. He said police were trying to get a photo from a video taken as the thief was sprinting down a mall hallway. Police also tried to zoom in on the robber in the hope that someone would recognize the person or an article of clothing or a patch on the blue uniform top the person was wearing.

"We felt pretty good about our cameras in the past, as far as solving crimes," Heaton said. "We'll continue to do everything we can to make improvements."

Heaton also declined to discuss what he's heard about the progress of the investigation into the crime.

"We're going to leave that up to the Fargo Police Department. We'll see where it goes. We hope that we have a positive resolution and recover the artifacts," Heaton said.

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The stolen artifacts should be covered under the mall's insurance policy, Heaton said. Based on some estimates, the bejeweled golden Hickock Belt given to the top pro athlete of the year could be worth up to $140,000.

"That's going to be a lengthy process as well" to get the claim resolved, Heaton said.

Two images posted by Fargo police on the department's Facebook page show a person wearing a blue shirt or jacket with a patch on the left shoulder. The person is also wearing a hat with a bill and a tie, reminiscent of a security guard. The suspect also had a black covering on their face. The image also showed the suspect holding a yellow item.

The Facebook post highlighted that the shirt the burglar was wearing had a patch on the left shoulder, but not the right, and asked anyone who finds a similar discarded shirt to contact the detective working the case at (701) 241-1429.

Heaton said the outfit worn by the thief didn't match the uniforms of West Acres security. He said West Acres guards wear black pants and shirts and don't wear ties or hats.

Police say the burglar smashed an exterior mall door and the Roger Maris Museum's case to take the MVP plaque and the Hickok belt, which was awarded to Maris after he broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record in 1961.

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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