DALLAS — Five men robbed Ben Bridge Jewelers in NorthPark Center at gunpoint, escaping with watches worth $277,400 in the second violent crime in less than three weeks at the upscale mall here, police said.

The stickup men entered the store at 10:59 a.m. Monday and one of the intruders held a gun on the boutique’s unarmed security guard as the others smashed three glass cases with short-handled sledgehammers, said Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department. The robbers grabbed at least 27 Rolex watches in less than two minutes.

There were five employees in the store, but no customers. No injuries were reported.

The suspects “knew what they wanted and where it was,” Janse said. “They didn’t take any extra time to grab any other expensive jewelry.”

The store is located on the ground level next to Talbots and near Nordstrom and Ann Taylor.

“To our knowledge, this is the first armed robbery of a jewelry store in the mall’s 43-year history,” said Christine Szalay, NorthPark marketing director. “We are looking at how we operate inside NorthPark and externally to make sure we are providing the best possible security.”

Mall management plans to begin meeting with tenants today to discuss security, she added.

NorthPark has 235 stores and restaurants and is anchored by Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Dillard’s. The mall opened a wing in 2006 featuring stores for teens and children as well as a multiplex cinema and food court. At the same time, it upgraded the two corridors extending from Neiman’s into luxury strips with new tenants such as Tod’s, De Beers, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Cartier, Oscar de la Renta, Salvatore Ferragamo, David Yurman and Bottega Veneta.

NorthPark’s sales are projected to reach $920 million this year compared with $869 million in 2007, with more than 25 million visitors, Szalay said.

On May 16, a woman was shot once in the face in her car in the mall parking lot in what appeared to be an attempted robbery or carjacking. No arrest has been made and the victim is recovering.

This story first appeared in the June 6, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The police have increased patrols at the mall, Janse said. In addition, NorthPark has uniformed security guards.

“We are taking these crimes extremely seriously because of the nature of them, but crime is definitely not up at the mall,” Janse said.

NorthPark has had a total of three violent crimes since January, the same number as last year, including a shoplifter at Nordstrom who struggled with a security guard, he said. Property crime is down slightly, with 127 offenses from 134 last year.

Richard Eiseman, president of Eiseman Jewels at NorthPark, said the robbery was an “isolated situation.”

“I’m very comfortable with the security provided by the center, and in our 43 years here we haven’t seen operational robberies that concern us for our safety or the safety of our patrons,” he said.

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