Are malls safe from terror? Security experts question shopping center security

This is a discussion on Are malls safe from terror? Security experts question shopping center security within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; http://www.policeone.com/terrorism/articles/1213296 Are malls safe from terror? Security experts question shopping center security By Carol Eisenberg Newsday WASHINGTON The mall security guard scrutinizes the black ...

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    VIP Member Array paramedic70002's Avatar
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    Are malls safe from terror? Security experts question shopping center security

    http://www.policeone.com/terrorism/articles/1213296

    Are malls safe from terror? Security experts question shopping center security


    By Carol Eisenberg
    Newsday

    WASHINGTON The mall security guard scrutinizes the black backpack lying by the garbage bin. Should he open it? Ignore it? Call police?

    In a world increasingly vulnerable to terrorism and random acts of violence like the rampage in a Salt Lake City mall Monday, security experts say that low-paid private security worker may be the front line of protection in one of the nation's most heavily trafficked places. And they question the adequacy of his training - or of the malls' security measures - to detect or deter an attack.

    "For suburban America, the mall is the gathering place," said Mitchell Moss of New York University's Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response. "It's much more than just a place to shop. It's where huge numbers of people gather to go to the movies, eat and socialize - therefore, making it a potential terror target. "

    Roosevelt Field, the state's largest mall, may draw as many as 100,000 people a day at holiday peak - one reason Nassau police conducted a training exercise there a year after 9/11, based on the scenario of a plane crashing into the mall's food court.

    The Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly warned that malls are potentially attractive targets for terrorists, although officials say there is no credible intelligence of imminent plots.

    It cites al-Qaida training manuals that identify "places of amusement" and "vital economic centers" as targets and a pattern of such attacks worldwide. A Rand Corp. survey documented over 60 attacks since 1998 on shopping centers in places as diverse as Russia, Turkey and Israel.

    This country has seen only lone-wolf attacks - one of the bloodiest Monday night when an 18-year-old Bosnian refugee opened fire on shoppers in a Salt Lake City mall, killing five and wounding four before being gunned down by police. Police are still investigating his motive.

    But such cases underscore how potentially vulnerable the nation's malls and shopping centers are to acts of violence, according to a recent Justice Department report, which found that while many malls have tightened security since September 2001, much more could be done. The report cited inadequate training for low-paid, high-turnover security workers, as well as insufficient drilling and coordination between mall security and first responders.

    "Turnover in private security is huge," said author Robert Davis, citing rates as high as 100 percent in some places. "So even if you have a good program and people are trained in it, chances are that at any given moment, half your staff won't know what the plan is. "

    But that assessment is disputed by the company that provides security to some of the area's biggest malls, all of which declined to participate in the survey, citing concerns about how the information might be used.

    "The large developers - the Roosevelt Fields, the Smith Haven Malls - are far ahead in terms of quality of personnel and caliber of training," said Jon Lusher, senior vice president of IPC International Corp. of Illinois.

    "Nine-eleven was a wake-up call," said Lusher, whose company provides security for 400 malls, including Roosevelt Field, The Source, Walt Whitman and Smith Haven malls. "There have been many, many changes, both in training and in our liaison with law enforcement and the sharing of information. "

    Weighing security

    Nonetheless, he acknowledged that malls balance the risk of terror against the costs of added security, and the economic imperative to be welcoming to shoppers.

    He doubted, for instance, that most Americans would be willing to go through a metal detector and a bag search before entering a mall, as Israel shoppers do - one of the few things that would have stopped the Salt Lake City shooter.

    "Clearly, there are business decisions made, in terms of how realistic it is that a certain shopping center is going to be attacked," he said.

    How big is the threat? And how much security are Americans willing to put up with?

    While some prophecize potentially apocalyptic scenarios - former National Security Adviser Richard Clarke predicted multiple attacks on malls and amusement parks in an article in The Atlantic two years ago - others are frankly skeptical.

    "Despite the ease of killing Americans in shopping malls and schools, it hasn't happened," said political scientist Ian Lustick, author of "Trapped in the War on Terror. "

    "The effort to master the unlimited catastrophes we can imagine by mobilizing scarce resources will drain our economy, divert and distort military, intelligence, and law enforcement resources, undermine faith in our institutions, and fundamentally disturb our way of life," Lustick said.

    U.S. Homeland Security spokesman William Knocke said that the government has advised local officials to be vigilant, although "there is no credible intelligence to suggest any imminent threat. "

    Impact of 9/11

    Most mall owners, including the Simon Property Group, which owns several Long Island malls, refuse to talk publicly about risk assessments. But police, security contractors and trade groups say that since 9/11, local malls have expanded closed-circuit television systems, redesigned entrances to block car bombers, and bolstered training for private security.

    Members of the International Council of Shopping Centers - including Simon - spent $1.8 million to develop a terror prevention course that they expect to put 20,000 security workers through by spring, said spokesman Malachy Kavanagh.

    Designed by the Homeland Security Institute at George Washington University, the 14-hour course includes video simulations of security guards confronting scenarios such as an abandoned backpack.

    Guards are drilled to move shoppers away and to notify police - and to avoid opening the pack or using a walkie-talkie close by because of the chance of setting off hidden explosives.

    "The idea is not to turn security workers into G.I. Joes," said Paul Maniscalco at the Homeland Security Institute. "We're starting with the baseline education that the Department of Homeland Security has established for first responders, and customizing it to the shopping center environment. "

    What can they do about a man brandishing a shotgun?

    Even Maniscalco acknowledged there are no good options, especially for mostly unarmed private guards.

    "As soon as they see someone who's a hostile actor, they're trained to make immediate notification to law enforcement, and then to get people out of the facility as quickly as possible," he said.

    Training alone not enough

    But while no one disagrees that more rigorous anti-terror training is needed, some say that training alone is insufficient.

    "By not providing a living wage, mall security will continue to be compromised by high turnover and inexperienced officers," said Local 32BJ Spokesman Matt Nerzig, who said that median pay for security workers in the metropolitan area is $11.56 an hour.

    Lusher declined to say how much his company pays its guards. But he acknowledged that turnover - between 30 and 40 percent nationally at IPC - "makes training more difficult, more time-consuming and more costly. That's exactly the reason you do more. " IPC's guards undergo a mandatory 48-hour training, plus two additional hours every month, he said.

    Local police stress that beyond private guards, Long Island's malls have an active police presence, both in uniform and plainclothes. Roosevelt Field, for instance, has a police substation in the mall. And both Nassau and Suffolk also have instituted systems to share information back and forth with area retailers.

    They also plan to do more simulations like the one at Roosevelt Field four years ago.

    "Could we increase training and make things better still?" asked Nassau Police Insp. Matthew Simeone. "Yes, I think we could. Do we need to go the route of the invasive security checks done in Israel? I don't think we're at that point.

    "Of course, events here and around the world may change that, in which case, attitudes are likely to change."

    Safety first

    The Justice Department-sponsored report on mall security recommended:

    More rigorous and standardized training of private security guards to detect, deter and respond to attacks.

    Development of detailed emergency management plans, in coordination with the mall's tenants and first responders.

    Regular drilling of private security, along with first responders, to test knowledge of those plans.

    Bringing in experts to assess a mall's vulnerabilities and asking owners to reduce those on a cost-benefit basis.

    Copyright 2007 Newsday, Inc.
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    Member Array erikd65's Avatar
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    IMO, Security in Malls is a failure. We had an "incident" here in Spokane a few weeks ago at one of the malls. Some strange odor started upstairs, and it was enough to make people sick and send them to the hospital. They still don't know who did it or what the odor was. I think it was a terrorist cell "probing" to see how people and officials would react. If people don't think the terrorists are doing this ALL the time, they are living under a rock.
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    Ex Member Array Pete's Avatar
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    Security in most of USA is in need of a KUTA.
    I'm not saying that the authorities and the public are negligent, just that the situation here is still in it's infancy.
    Back in London, if anyone saw a unattended bag they would report it and the bomb squad would be there, I guess 30 years of IRA attacks taught us all that vigilance against terrorism doesn't always allow for second guessing.

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    Distinguished Member Array p8riot's Avatar
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    You'll notice that they don't mention one very obvious approach.
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    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    Sounds like we need more mall ninjas!

    Hey, somebody had to say it.

    Seriously, though, there's one thing in this article I really have to disagree with.
    Quote Originally Posted by paramedic70002 View Post
    He doubted, for instance, that most Americans would be willing to go through a metal detector and a bag search before entering a mall, as Israel shoppers do - one of the few things that would have stopped the Salt Lake City shooter.
    A metal detector would not have stopped the Trolley Square shooter. He started firing in the parking lot. If there had been a metal detector at the entrance, he presumably would have shot the people standing in line waiting to go through the detector and the (probably unarmed) security guard running the checkpoint.

    Security checkpoints where people line up to be searched are actually great for random shooters or bombers because they concentrate unarmed people in a small area. Unless the checkpoints themselves are guarded by people who have guns and know how to use them (as they are in Israel) they are more like a terrorist smorgasbord than an effective security measure.

    Note that this doesn't really apply to airport security checkpoints, since the goal there is to prevent armed terrorists from making it onto an airplane. Having a shooting or bombing at the checkpoint will probably do less damage than the same attack on an aircraft. At a mall (or courthouse, or museum, or any of a dozen other places where these checkpoints seem to be springing up like mushrooms) it doesn't really make a difference whether there is a shooting at the checkpoint or inside. It's going to be equally bad either way.

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    VIP Member Array MNBurl's Avatar
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    The only security in Malls is what you provide for yourself!
    MNBurl

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    Member Array lilducky08's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MNBurl View Post
    The only security in Malls is what you provide for yourself!
    Agreed. You can never place your safety, your life, in the hands of a rent a cop, or anyone else for that matter.

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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    Security in an open-air, public gathering place with large spaces and no controlled entry/exit points simply cannot be guarded in such a way as to avoid mad-bomber scenario. Can't be done. Hell, it can't even be reliably performed at heavily-armed Israeli checkpoints, with tanks and dozens of well-armed personnel just yards away. Short of a body-cavity strip search of each and every person who passes the checkpoint, it can't be done.

    What that means is: at some point, such bombings are going to happen in the U.S. I'm only amazed it has not already happened.

    Grocery stores, farmer's markets, amusement parks, the mall, any professional or collegiate sporting event in a stadium ... anyplace with the twin pillars of (a) a dense collection of people and (b) no practical means to defend a large, open space from infiltration.

    It's going to happen. All they need are the bodies to commit the act.
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    VIP Member Array paramedic70002's Avatar
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    I forwarded this article to my pop-in-law, who is a regional manager of 3 malls in Texas. He is not a gun owner, but has experience in mall security, and takes his job VERY seriously. When he managed Greenbrier mall in Chesapeake, VA, he contracted with an unarmed service for security, but also with the Chesapeake PD. There were always armed LEOs on the property. One of his malls now is in Port Arthur, Texas, which is one of the Katrina areas. Haven't really had discussions with him over crime and such, but I know he had a lot of repair work to do after the storm.
    I have worked armed security in malls. Amazing the discussions I had. "You aren't allowed to carry a loaded gun in the mall, right?" If I showed them a loaded magazine, "They aren't real bullets." Arghhh! Interresting tidbit: Mall security is only for the mall, NOT for the stores in the mall!
    "Each worker carried his sword strapped to his side." Nehemiah 4:18

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    Member Array rwmorrisonjr's Avatar
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    This is one of the main reasons I don't go to malls. I have no desire to be stuck somewhere full of people and limited egress points that, if something did happen, would become a panic farm in .00003 seconds and completely chaotic.

    Besides, most of the people I've seen doing security at malls couldn't protect themselves from a bad cough, let alone control a bad situation.
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    VIP Member Array havegunjoe's Avatar
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    Absolutely correct Burl.

    Quote Originally Posted by MNBurl View Post
    The only security in Malls is what you provide for yourself!
    Here in MN the Mall of America has been designated a terrorist target if such a thing were to occur here. The Mall's anti-terrorist plan is to post "no guns allowed signs", which aren't even legally posted, and to have the usual type unarmed security people you find at all malls.

    Sure makes me fell safe I'll tell ya.
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    Member Array MD_Willington's Avatar
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    Are malls safe from terror?

    I don't need a government grant for this one.. Uh Nope, They Are Not.

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    Ex Member Array Pete's Avatar
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    Are malls safe?



    Reminded me of this 2004 story in The Onion.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30776

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    Until The Next Hit...

    There is probably no one place that is safe...

    There will be no warning...and the Liberals have made sure that if you speak of being armed...you are a gun nut.

    I'm 60, not in the best shape (lots of miles on this horse), and I know I could out run most of our mall security.

    Last week, my wife, who is much more polite than I, was walking next to me in the mall. Walking in the other direction was a mall security guy who had the uniform (size 52) with a trooper style hat and appeared to be out of breath...from walking! He also appeared...lost?

    We both looked at each other and tried to hold back our smiles (laughs, actually), so as not to seem rude.
    Once he passed, my wife said, "Great, who is he going to help? He needs the help!"

    Would several malls, schools, stadiums, or big events get hit?...who knows?

    We all know it is only a matter of when, not if...the do'ers are already here and waiting. Soon...very soon...I think,...I hope I'm wrong!

    Stay armed...stay safe...and plan ahead...stay in yellow!

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    VIP Member Array obxned's Avatar
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    Mall security can't keep an ordinary BG with the IQ of a garden gnome out, what chance do they have against organized terrorist?
    "If we loose Freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the Last Place on Earth!" Ronald Reagan

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