Massacre Puts Focus on Mall Security Measures

Discussion
Dec 06, 2007

By George Anderson

It’s often said by those in retail security that there is very little that can be done if a deranged individual or terrorist decides to walk or drive into a store or mall and begin killing people.

While there is truth in that position, the second massacre inside an American mall within a year’s time along with the recent conviction of a an Islamic radical who wanted to blow up a shopping center in Ohio begs the question, should malls be altering standard security measures to deal with the worst-case scenario?

Yesterday, an individual identified as Robert Hawkins, 19, walked into an Omaha, Neb. Mall and proceeded to shoot and kill eight individuals while wounding several others before taking his own life. The shooter left a suicide note that said, “I’ll be famous.”

Yesterday’s shooting follows another in Salt Lake City in February. There, an 18-year-old Bosnian immigrant named Sulejman Talovic went on a rampage shooting nine individuals and killing five. The shooter was killed by police gunfire.

In July, an immigrant from Somalia named Nuradin Abdi pleaded guilty to working with terrorists in a plot to blow up a mall in the Columbus, Ohio area.

Discussion Questions: Do the actions of the murderers in Omaha and Salt Lake along with the conviction of Nuradin Abdi on terrorist charges suggest that malls have become, for lack of a better word, a “prestigious” location for those seeking to go out in some type of perceived glory? What steps can be taken to prevent events like yesterday with the knowledge that it is likely a matter of time before a similar incident happens again?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

24 Comments on "Massacre Puts Focus on Mall Security Measures"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Doug Fleener
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

If someone is going to do something heinous for attention and “glory” then a mall or a large retail store is going to be on their list of potential targets. But so are other large gathering places like schools, sporting events, etc. It’s sad but the fact is that this kind of disaster can strike anywhere at anytime.

It is important that malls take immediate action to show more security during the holidays. Not just for the customer’s sake, but also for the retail employees. Retailers around the country should also take the time to review their disaster policy and procedures with all of their stores. This event strikes home to retail employees regardless of where they live.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 5 months ago

I believe we do need to be more aware of the potential dangers these days, but also believe that we are playing right into the plans of terrorists as we alter our society out of fear. Awareness and fear are very different. Educating citizens to have a basic level of awareness about security is desirable–in the U.S. a package left outside a store is a package to most passersby, in Israel it is a bomb–and certainly the presence of security and cameras in appropriate places is a deterrent to some bad actors. Others of course, are looking for the publicity and the more security the better. Metal detectors in places that are no more or less likely to be the scene of a violent attack than any other are reactions to fear, not a rational balancing of freedom and freedom from fear.

Hy Libby
Guest
Hy Libby
14 years 5 months ago

Let the market speak:

If malls that provide more security attract enough customers who want to feel safe, they will win their business. (There are no guarantees, however.)

If customers begin to resent extra security measures as being too invasive or intrusive; then they will take their business elsewhere, or stay home and shop online.

James Tenser
Guest
14 years 5 months ago
Visible and reassuring evidence of basic security need not turn our society into a police state. Like it or not, the publicity surrounding recent violent acts has penetrated the public consciousness. It’s a bell that can’t be un-rung. It is certainly not the mall operator’s fault when a deranged or politically motivated individual commits an act of violence on their premises. But they have a strong interest in providing a reasonably safe environment where members of the public can spend time and money. Shopping malls are private property, so I don’t have a big problem with the installation of metal detectors and surveillance cameras (with the very notable exception of fitting rooms and restrooms, of course). Visible and truly professional security personnel would not be unwelcome either. Mall operators know they must provide a congenial atmosphere for shoppers, or they won’t show up. Reminding the public of life-threatening danger is not very good marketing. The implicit message should be, “We’re here for you and taking all prudent steps to ensure safety so you can have… Read more »
Cristina Bremner
Guest
Cristina Bremner
14 years 5 months ago

At exactly what point are we going to look at the real issue–guns and gun control. You cannot place this burden on the shopping center team or owner/developer. People who are mentally unstable do not walk around with a sign on them saying “stop me.” There is no additional security that can be implemented that would prevent a person determined to kill from doing so.

Gene McCoy
Guest
Gene McCoy
14 years 5 months ago
Unfortunately, I think there is typically an overreaction to the type of event that happened in Omaha, not too far from where I live in Nebraska. Let me ask the question: How many people died in automobile accidents on the way to a retail store last year? Compare that to how many were gunned down by disturbed individuals. I do not want to minimize the trauma that has been suffered by those impacted by this event, but it is true that there is no way ultimately to make ourselves totally safe from this or any other type of random act. With every security measure we sacrifice a little more privacy, freedom and convenience. At some point we may wake up and ask ourselves how much we are willing to sacrifice in the name of security. With all the possible ways I could die at anytime, worrying about being gunned down by a crazed gunman is not high on my personal list of concerns. I think that retail security concerns should be concentrated on the most… Read more »
Karen McNeely
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Apparently I’m the dissenting voice here, but I really don’t want to go through a metal detector when entering every single public building.

Yes, what happened is a tragedy. Yes, sometimes people do go off the deep end and hurt or kill other innocent people. But most of the time they don’t. I personally will take my chances and not spend my life constantly looking over my shoulder.

I suppose some people will avoid the mall because of this. Probably the same ones that stock piled batteries and water in the last weeks of 1999. But Americans have short memories and I’m sure the effects will mostly be short term.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

We live in our own little world of protectionism in the US. Then we’re shocked when a terrorist or someone deranged does something. Why does it take something like this to make it happen and why does it happen?

1. Good news doesn’t sell and there is so much competition for the viewer that anything that can be made into news does.
2. We have lost more freedoms to terrorists in the last ten years than we have given up in the last 100.
3. Why not have more gun control?
4. Why expect things like this to happen in the rest of the world and not happen here?
5. We have 3 incidents in 1 year and get upset and yet this goes on in the Middle East daily and we keep our heads in the sand.

The answer looks like more police, more loss of freedom, and more news blown out of perspective.

susan noyes
Guest
susan noyes
14 years 5 months ago

As someone that has worked in retail for 25+ years, I must say, that all of my years working in a mall environment bring back memories of being verbally abused, thieved upon, and feeling unsafe a great amount of the time. Malls are a haven for people from all walks of life, good and bad. Mall security is neither staffed nor trained to respond to threats or shootings. If mall management is willing to hire and train the right people, they would appear more formidable. Even under the ideal circumstances, with better training, this man would not have been stopped.

I liken it to when someone shoplifts–you can deter them, but if they want it bad enough, they will find a way.

Mark Burr
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

There are really no ‘real’ steps that can be taken to prevent an incident occurring as did yesterday other than good sound security. If the perpetrator of such an event is intent on succeeding–he/she will.

What can be reviewed is response and measures taken during such an incident. These are real and actionable improvements that can be reviewed and continuously improved based on sound judgments aside from emotional ones.

We are unwilling to curb the weapons and the glorification of the events, thus the only area to consider is how to respond to them and potentially reduce the carnage that occurs in the event that this does take place.

Daniel Abreu
Guest
Daniel Abreu
14 years 5 months ago

As a few others have already mentioned, we live in a free society. With that comes some risk. Consider the astronomical number of Americans who pass through a mall in one year then consider how many rare tragedies occur like this one. Is mall shopping safer than driving your car, riding on a bus or flying in an airplane? I think so. I don’t have any factual data to back this up, but guessing more people are killed by accidents like broken escalators, accidents in parking lots, falling displays in stores etc, every year in malls than gunfire.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
14 years 5 months ago

Removing all risk to mall shoppers is nearly impossible, but removing, or at least limiting the “glory” and publicity being sought by such perpetrators should be a no brainer. Does anybody really think the tragedy yesterday was not “son of” Columbine, or Virginia tech and reflective of all the media time and fame those killers got?

And, especially what a shame this had to happen during the holiday season inside one of the truly “good guy” retailers in America, Von Maur.

Charlie Powell
Guest
Charlie Powell
14 years 5 months ago
As long as we value a free and open society and our commerce is dependent upon that value, we will always be vulnerable to tragic sucker punches like this. This is in no way a disregard for victims; but rather a reassessment of just how much actual risk there is. Three hundred million people, billions of hours spent shopping in malls annually and we are going to impose further expensive, restrictive security of very questionable value when assessed relative to the deranged perpetrator? I do not buy the argument that deterring one mad man justifies any amount thrown at prevention. If that were the case, then all people in automobiles should be forced to wear helmets to protect them from drunk drivers; we’d save many more lives that way. No person, no device, and no agency can guarantee your safety from all possible harm in all possible places. And all such efforts are very costly initially and over time with lost commerce. Furthermore, when it comes to the criminally motivated, self-destructive, mentally ill, perpetrator understand… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

People are often criticized for taking an “it won’t happen to me attitude;” with regard to being gunned down/blown up/etc. while shopping, it is the entirely–or at least 99.999%+–correct attitude to take, for the simple reason that that is the likelihood it won’t happen.

So let’s move on to the next issue–RW’s question for next week, if you will: how a does a rising, but still relatively small, regional retailer recover from this tragedy? To be sure, sensitivity toward victims, counseling for employees–in short, all the obvious things–is appropriate, but how do you handle the damage done when your store’s name has been associated with calamity on every front page from Omaha to New Zealand?

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
14 years 5 months ago

How about just posting a guard at every entrance?

Joe foran
Guest
Joe foran
14 years 5 months ago

You can’t secure everything; those who are crying for metal detectors in malls and the like are clueless about the issue.

You have an essential choice–a free and open society or a police state. If you implement news blackouts and secure every possible target, then you’ve taken away the media’s freedom of expression and you’ll need a massive police force to take away every conceivable target (malls, gasoline tankers, ports, day care centers, etc.) Once you’ve secured them all, using metal detectors and repeals of due process and the 2d Amendment, folks like this kid will find an unexpected way to make their point.

Robert Craycraft
Guest
Robert Craycraft
14 years 5 months ago

Mall security guards, as well as those at the entrances to major urban department stores, should be uniformed and ARMED. Waiting for the police to get there can result in many unnecessary deaths. As per comments above, the 24-hour news media needs to consider the impact of their excessive coverage of these frightening but relatively isolated events.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

If you want to make malls safer, impose a news blackout on any coverage of mall shootings. Read the latest killer’s suicide note. He wanted to be famous–and knew just how to achieve his twisted goal.

Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

You can’t really do a whole lot more than make sure your police are trained well in proper procedures. They should drill again and again on this sort of thing, and establish expertise in setting up perimeters, helping civilians escape, negotiation, lethal and non-lethal force, etc.–whatever it takes. I would also hope that privacy fanatics might become a little less paranoid about security cameras everywhere. Cameras can provide good information to responding police on a perp’s precise location, equipment, hostages, etc. Unfortunately, I think this will become more common. The nut who took hostages at Hillary’s headquarters in NH said later that he was hoping police would kill him. “Suicide by cop” is becoming much more prevalent, too. I wish the media would just report the news once, and get off it. Running it endlessly for weeks on end just gives more ideas to unstable people.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
14 years 5 months ago

I find this interesting…8 people are shot dead by a crazed gunman while shopping in a mall, and the question that is posed is are malls doing enough to take care of security? How can this problem be the fault of the mall? Are we at the point that we need to put up a metal detector at every entrance to every mall in the country? No offense to people in Nebraska, but this happened in Omaha! Not the most bustling urban community. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere, and there is no way to control it. At least not from a security issue.

And if you were to beef up security at a mall, wouldn’t the crazies go somewhere else? Are you going to have metal detectors at every movie theater? At every supermarket? Every car wash? Every sports arena? Where does it stop?

Lee Peterson
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Go to a mall anywhere else in the world and you’ve got to go through a metal detector…why do we have to wait for something like this to happen to do something? I’ve always wondered why this country is so reactive vs. proactive…short term vision is an American sickness.

On the positive side, kind of, happenings like this (or worse) will definitely make online shopping MUCH more appealing. Look for a tipping point that takes it from 5-6% to +30% sometime soon. The reaction of that occurrence by retailers is something that perhaps could use some foresight NOW.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Malls in certain countries have metal detectors just like airports. So do certain government buildings, such as court locations. It isn’t possible to stop all violence, but risk reduction is certainly possible. The most effective risk reduction: stay away from crowds by buying online.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
14 years 5 months ago

It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the corner of the room that everyone knows is there but ignores. Malls, supermarkets, cafes and other shops are prime terrorist targets. Just look at what goes on in the West Bank.

A tragedy like September 11 angers people. But if you want to really strike fear into people’s hearts and minds, go after the places where they live their lives everyday. Unfortunately, retail security, aside from collaring the odd shoplifter, is incredibly lax.

The government isn’t going to help you out and there are no local funds for beefing up security in these highly public areas. It’s up to individual retailers to take the initiative. I would hire additional professional security during the holiday season and make sure they’re visible. A lot of off-duty cops are allowed to moonlight wearing their uniforms. If you can deter one sick individual it’s worth the time effort and money.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 5 months ago

The greatest security measure available to all of us is each other. In this day and time, you can’t afford to mind your own business, it could get you killed.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you think shopping malls should increase security in hopes of preventing incidents such as those in Omaha and Salt Lake City take place?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...