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Can we control weapons at malls?

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  • Can we control weapons at malls?

    The shooting in Tacoma area last week which involved hostages pointed out the vulnerability of our malls (Tom Clancy pointed it out in a book some years ago, too). Some say that increasing mall security to the point of being able to keep weapons out is impractical due to the need to keep malls open and accessible to encourage the shopping experience.

    I think that may be true, but as detection systems become more accurate and have faster through-put and become smaller such that they can be easily integrated into door controls and door hardware/door frames, I believe there is the potential in the future of detecting weapons before they get in the mall. Is this 2 years out? 5 years out? 10 years out? Hard to say.

    This being the shopping season, our malls are more vulnerable than ever, and I think it's a bit much to expect that our security officers will be able to recognize "suspicious" individuals. I know that at my local mall, the police officers on duty are basically stationing themselves out at the food court, reviewing persons who walk through that key corridor. They are doing walking tours of the facility from time to time, as well.

    I know malls are getting more and more surveillance cameras and these are often now available in video feeds to police responders, but what else can we do?

    What do you think? How can we beef up security at malls without killing the retail "openess"?

    BTW, here's a follow-up article about the shooting at the Tacoma, WA mall:
    http://www.securityinfowatch.com/onl...cal/6522SIW379

    Geoff Kohl
    SIW Editor

  • #2
    I could see installing passive sensors at all entrances and exits, combined with real-time cameras to detect who sets the metal detectors off. The detectors could be installed in either EAS looking arches, or in the doorframes.

    This leads to another issue: How to handle off-duty police officers (licensed to carry by authority,) CCW permit holders (licensed to carry by statute,) and Federal authorities (Suits and guns.) If the system simply goes off without attendance and then security/police respond to the event - that's going to be alot of checking up on lawful individuals who may complain.

    One solution would be to put up private property "no firearms" signs, however, some states allow CCW holders to simply ignore the signs legally. This will also not stop LEOs from carrying - and setting off any passive detection grid.

    A more active approach is needed, but people will most likely equate "active" with "airport" and be annoyed that it they're being funnelled, processed, and scanned.
    Some Kind of Commando Leader

    "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

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    • #3
      From what I know about metal detectors, they would alarm on metallic objects in purses, pockets, shoes, some outer ware with metallic linings and jewelry.
      In Manassas Mall located in Prince William County Virginia, mall management has posted warning signs stating all firearms are prohibited except for sworn law enforcement personnel. These warning signs were journalized in the county court clerk?s office. Agreed, invitees and mall personnel are not made safe by signs. Virginia permits open carry as well as CCW permits.
      The FBI recently sent local law enforcement agencies and mall management informational letters stating a heightened state of security awareness exists and all parties concerned must exercise increased security diligence and report suspicious persons and activities and unattended parcels and packages to mall management, mall security or local police. They cite the recent hotel bombings in Jordan and mall bombings in the Philippines.
      This puts the onus on mall management to develop security strategies some of whom are totally unprepared. Enclosed malls are the most affected as strip malls have offsite or absent management or landlords. Local law enforcement is stretched to the limit now, now additional work is thrust their way.
      Therefore customers, invitees, store management and security, if provided, must exercise a degree of security awareness beyond looking for thieves or pickpockets.
      Enjoy the day,
      Bill

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      • #4
        The strip malls have to have the worst of the problem with securing the multiple facilities. They worry about bottom line, minimum expenditure in the security/maintenance/facilities category.

        The best they can do is hire a private security comptany to perform an assessment for each of their strip mall locations. It is hard, as always, to prove the negative and show a quantifable loss reduction by deploying private security forces in areas you know little about - being one of 2,400 properties your company manages.

        This can lead, of course, to selecting a company that sounds "too good to be true." Promising things that no security company paying an unarmed, untrained, employee minimum wage can hope to accomplish. Robbery prevention, for example, is a stretch when there is no threat of police intervention (due to the guard having communications) or security intervention (due to the guard having a deadly force option such as a firearm). Identifying indicators of terrorist activity is hard when the employee recieves no training, and has to go off what he sees on CNN. Indeed, most activities that private security provide in the protection area - protection of the property, tennants, and patrons; enforcement of client rules; and maintenance of good order - require trained professionals to accomplish.

        Enclosed malls have the advantage as they operate with a high customer service expectation. Everyone is used to mall security, they expect protection by the security force to some degree, and the mall's security directors provide it.

        The strip mall, unfournately, seems not to be as organized in the protection of assets as enclosed malls are.
        Some Kind of Commando Leader

        "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

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        • #5
          Just a note, in most states persons that have a CCW can not carry weapons into public places such as malls, government buildings and on private property where the owner has prohibited weapons.
          Keeping the parking lots safe, hallways moving and the Chik Fil A busy.

          Comment


          • #6
            around here the mall security forces are not armed, but you know what, they should be, simply for the fact that you dont know what kind of people are walking into the mall. I would put up large signs so the public can see it, more increased security precense around entrances and I guess hope for the best. Alot of people would probably quit shopping at that certain mall because they dont want to be screened, it would be a hassle to the customers and to the officers doing the screening when all day long they would hear complaints, names being called at them, hositilty among the customers. I would just do more increased armed security patrols around entrances and the whole interiror of the mall itself. And try to have all Mall staff trained in what to look for like someone who is acting nervous, odd or just unusual behaviour
            Last edited by plankeye; 11-30-2005, 12:34 PM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by SIW Editor

              I think that may be true, but as detection systems become more accurate and have faster through-put and become smaller such that they can be easily integrated into door controls and door hardware/door frames, I believe there is the potential in the future of detecting weapons before they get in the mall. Is this 2 years out? 5 years out? 10 years out? Hard to say.
              Disneyland, Great America, and the fairgrounds all use metal detectors at points of entry. It does not appear that these business suffer a lack of patronage due to the metal detectors. Of course, people will feel hasseled if they are subjected to these security measures as a condition of entry. If metal detectors were used at malls, I would imagine it would take some "getting used to" on part of the American public.

              Realistically, it could be any of the above; 2, 5, or 10 years. I don't see metal detectors in place in all malls..unless we start to see suicide bombers and other terrorists. While we prefer to be proactive..administrators (who make the decisions) tend to be reactive. This is unfortunate.


              Originally posted by SIW Editor
              I know malls are getting more and more surveillance cameras and these are often now available in video feeds to police responders, but what else can we do?

              What do you think? How can we beef up security at malls without killing the retail "openess"?
              Beefing up security presence helps. 5 officers is better than 1. During holiday season it is imparitive to have more officers.

              Hire armed security for these malls. Malls are some of the most dangerous places to work security.

              On a side note..the first amendement gives citizens the right to keep and bear arms. I learned this first hand..we had a "man with a gun" call to the local pd for a guy in one of the restaurants. The guy was seated with is 357 openley displayed in his holster (Not Security or an LEO). The cops ordered him down, ran him, ran his gun...CLEAN.

              Turns out his gun was unloaded..and he can legally have it displayed for all to see. What good would a metal detector do in this case??

              Comment


              • #8

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bill Warnock
                  Training would have to be intense to cover the threats. That means "big bucks" to mall management.
                  It is a delicate balance; Clients Expectations vs. "Big Bucks" vs. Vicarious Liability.

                  Is there a price one can put on Safety?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Trying to remember what the formula is, someone help me... But...

                    The price of safety is:

                    Estimate:
                    the cost of needed improvements/implementation to reduce/limit liability

                    vs

                    the cost of increased insurance premium, civil liability payout, and statstical probability that a liability event will occur.

                    Whichever is cheaper wins.
                    Some Kind of Commando Leader

                    "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      N.A., that is sad but so very true. With the big money in settlements, that may change. The terror threat may start driving the train. In portion of an often Winston Churchill quoted line, "Death is driving the clattering train."
                      Enjoy the day,
                      Bill

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Firearms and knives - YES
                        Bombs (in trash receptacles, etc) - MAYBE
                        Suicide bombers - NO
                        Biological/Chemical - NO
                        Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mr. Security
                          Firearms and knives - YES
                          Bombs (in trash receptacles, etc) - MAYBE
                          Suicide bombers - NO
                          Biological/Chemical - NO
                          I think it'd be easier to control nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons through active and passive detection grids than your firearm and knife. Explosives, as well. There are already systems designed to detect at stand-off ranges explosives and NBC weapons. Of course, these are expensive as hell, don't have a 100% percent hit rate, and require massive planning.

                          Defeating explosives can be accomplished through defense-in-design. Oh, hell, I just completely forgot what that term is. Where you use landscaping, overt and hidden obstacles, and other terrain and architectual designs to discourage attack, hinder the attack vectors, and minimize loss of life if the attack vector is successful.

                          Unforunately, that would require alot of retro-fitting of current mall facilities. If you look at the DoD, you can see alot of eye-pleasing designs that use bullards, switch-backs, and projectile screens. You'd never notice them if your not looking, but it makes it alot harder to get a vehicle-based-bomb into the lobby of the facility.

                          Alot of malls are designed for vehicles to drive right up into the main concourses. This is usually so that the local auto dealers can showcase a car inside, or so that construction vehicles can get access to the interior of the building for crane repairs, etc. I'm sure there are other reasons.

                          But, this makes a vehicle-based-bomb very easy to get into the facility. Just locate the vehicle doors on your recon, then drive right through them. They're usually glass, and will buckle when rammed.

                          Placing Bullards on those entrances is prohibitative to the function of the doors, unforunately.

                          As far as defeating human-based explosive/shooter threats, we seem to be leaving any actual show of force screening to law enforcement. I'm not sure how much of the general public would actually believe a mall security force could screen them legally - some might attempt to enter the facility anyway.

                          I don't know about anyone else, but the cost of having 40 sworn law enforcement officer surrounding your mall ala Miami Beach PD and interrogating everything that comes near it is probally as great as installing an active sensor network.
                          Some Kind of Commando Leader

                          "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            CPTED, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, was put forth by Timothy D. Crowe, National Crime Prevention Institute. Tim has modified the concept several times to meet the changing threats. Ballards and vehicle barriers, active and passive, can be used, but at what price? As N.A. rightly points out, it will be mind over matter. I am afraid we have all decided to sit back and wait. After 9/11 we developed an edge. Now according to the 9/11 Commission Chairman, we've lost that edge. We in this security profession can not afford to sit back and wait.
                            We have a hotline and it is abused. Most calls are get-even or get-back at someone, not security related issues.
                            We can surround a facility with sworn LEOs, factor in the cost and our disdain of a police state are limiting factors.
                            Training and the proper use of intelligence are keys to drawing even with the threat driven scenarios. What establishes threat? Three things! Criticality, Sensitivity and Vulnerability. We must rework these three things. Critical to what? government operations or our feeling of wellbeing. Sensitivity to what? our water supply, electricity or our wellbeing. Velnerable to what? not available when we need or want it or our wellbeing.
                            Enjoy the day,
                            Bill

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Has anyone heard (professionally) about the Miami plan to start surrounding buildings and doing ID checks, baggage screening, and other "high visibility" activity? Generally speaking, this will be interesting to see.

                              Its Florida, and business owners have been known to give agent of property owner rights to law enforcement agencies. Even if they don't, in this instance, they can still perform investigative detainments on public property.

                              Google News had several stories about this. I haven't seen anything more about it, yet, though.
                              Some Kind of Commando Leader

                              "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

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