A decade ago, those concerned with mall center security worried about terrorism. Today, the threat has shifted to random shooters.
After a failed terrorist plot in 2004 to blow up a mall in Columbus, Ohio, then-attorney general John Ashcroft met with retail executives to assure them that security was the government’s top priority. The discussion has now shifted to identifying and preventing random attacks, disarming shooters and knowing how to get customers and store employees to safety in the event of a threatening situation. The scenarios are no less frightening than a large-scale terrorist attack.
A rash of shootings on mall properties worldwide includes last year’s deadly siege of a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in which 67 people were killed. In recent months, there have been a slew of shootings at U.S. malls. A lawyer was killed in a carjacking outside The Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J., in December and, in November, a young man shot up Westfield Garden State Plaza, a super-regional mall in Paramus, N.J., frightening but not injuring shoppers, before taking his own life. A murder-suicide at The Mall in Columbia in Columbia, Md., on Jan. 25 left three dead and one person recovering from a gunshot wound. Had scores of retail workers and shoppers not stayed out of sight, the death toll could have been higher when the shooter, who was carrying crude explosive devices, fired off six to nine shotgun rounds inside and outside a Zumiez store at The Mall in Columbia.
“There’s not a significant amount that can be done to predict or intercept something before [the perpetrator] gets to the site of the mall,” said David Levenberg, president of Center Security Services, which works with shopping centers. “Most developers are involved in drills and practices and adding security — off-duty or on-duty police officers. Most incidents from start-to-finish don’t last more than two or three minutes. Most police departments have protocol where they’re not allowed to enter a building until they have backup. By the time the police get the call and enter, the situation is done.”
Nonetheless, there are steps malls and stores can take in the event of a shooting. Among these are:
• Larger malls that can afford to are hiring police and opening substations on their properties, Levenberg said. “Now people are armed in the shopping center who can respond more quickly. Shooters, once confronted by someone who is armed, typically stop shooting. Malls understand that the component of armed police officers is important in mitigating dangerous situations.”
• Video analytics, a system that’s programmed to intelligently pick out unusual behavior. “There’s the potential to use technology more to make mall management aware of some suspicious activity,” said Levenberg.
• Training. Many malls are joining efforts and training with local police departments. Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., is the largest shopping center in the U.S. With 5 million square feet of space, it has a lot of ground to cover when it comes to security. With a 150-person security department, a Risk Assessment and Mitigation unit and a K-9 unit, the giant mall takes the well-being of its customers seriously. “You can look at the Mall of America as a big neighborhood with over 40 million people visiting per year,” said Doug Jenkins, director of security. “There are things that are normal and things that aren’t. When something seems out of place, we ask why it doesn’t make sense.”
The RAM unit, an undercover, plain-clothes team, interviews people who look unusual or are doing things that are out of the ordinary. “Their sole purpose is to look for suspicious people, vehicles and objects. They’ve had hundreds of hours of training and use a technique based on the FBI’s system of profiling,” said Jenkins.
The four dogs in the K-9 unit have changed breeds over the years. The mall started using malamutes, then switched to floppy-eared varieties such as spaniels and Labrador retrievers because they look softer and friendlier. Jenkins said the center does drills twice a month with all tenants, where stores go into lockdown mode. The drills take less than 10 minutes and occur at the beginning and end of the day. “We want to expose different shifts,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of smaller incidents with domestic disturbances that turned into fights and stores went into lockdown.”
“In most cases, mall owners are reasonable,” Levenberg said. “They try to take an educated approach to what they need in terms of security.”
Jenkins said Mall of America goes beyond the 40 hours of training required in the state of Minnesota. “We blow that out of the water and put [our staffers] through hundreds of hours of training,” he said. “When they’re signed off, I have no doubt that they can make it.”
• Using simple common sense. “Once an event occurs, what you can do to mitigate and reduce the amount of injury is lower the gates of a store and get all the people in the store to a locked back room,” said Levenberg. This is what happened at several stores during the Columbia shooting.
Despite the string of recent shootings, mall violence is down overall, according to Harvey W. Kushner, chairman of the criminal justice department at Long Island University. The estimated violent crime total in 2012 was 12.9 percent below the 2008 level, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports. “These incidents have affected America’s psyche,” he said. “It’s always been a money issue and there’s always been an issue about making malls a friendly place where people want to go. Malls should be safer and should have better trained people.” Many malls are joining efforts and training with local police departments, Kushner said.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews