What’s a Mall to Do?
Not much, according to shopping center security executives, law enforcement officials and even customers.
Last month, a tragic incident at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., cost the lives of eight before the shooter killed himself.
Then the copycats started their mall march.
Days after the Westroads tragedy, there was a police shooting at South Mall in Allentown, Pa. In that situation, there was a brief lockdown but shoppers were back at buying within an hour or so. According to South Mall’s Colette Weir, mall management assigned more security officers on patrol. The uniqueness of mall security, however, is that usually there are two levels of protection. Mall property owners and managers, such as Simon Property Group, maintain security in parking lots and garages, at entrances and in common public areas while individual leased stores maintain their own security and set their own expectations.
Beefing UpJust after the Westroads killings, some local police throughout the country added additional patrols at shopping centers and malls. Malachy Kavanagh of the International Council of Shopping Centers, in a media release, pointed out that while members have the ability to screen visitors through metal detectors and hire armed officers, the mall owners, stores and customers do not want such efforts.
Experts interviewed by Security Magazine suggest that shopping centers and malls may opt for emergency notification systems – better communications to customers – and more security video instead of metal detectors and private officers with guns. Don Greene, former FBI agent and mall security book author, agreed in a media release. Shopping center security executives, interviewed by Security Magazine, but not wishing to be identified, suggest that – in the short run – some mall entrances may be closed to better control access and there may be hiring of additional security officers for enhanced visibility.
According to a statement from Simon Property Group, “Law enforcement and security measures, no matter how good, cannot forestall a tragedy (such as Omaha) from happening.”
George Washington University, in conjunction with the ICSC, has a DVD-based security officer training program. It is estimated that about 20,000 security officers work shopping centers and malls. Less than one-third of them have taken the training course. There also is a significant turnover in security officers at malls and shopping centers.
It has been reported that security officers at the Westroads facility noticed unusually behavior of the shooter when he first entered, then exited and then entered again into the facility but that the shooting happened quickly and before a necessary response could be made.