Dec 062010

Shopping centers by nature present a unique challenge to security personnel, as they allow for open and unrestricted public access.  Holiday periods and other special events can be particularly challenging as shopping centers experience a greater influx of people in their facilities.  The following are key common vulnerabilities of shopping centers that could be exploited by terrorists or other adversaries:

• Unrestricted public access at most entry points does not allow for screening of individuals and their goods
• A large number of individuals coming and going allows for suspicious behavior to go unnoticed
• Multiple locations to place explosives (trash containers, planters, counters, etc.)
• Many people entering and exiting are carrying packages, making it difficult to identify potential hazards
• Vehicles routinely stop in front of entrances to pick up passengers or make deliveries so it is difficult for security to identify when surveillance of the property is being conducted
• Limited employee background checks fail to screen for potential adversaries
• Limited security force with limited training reduces the facility’s security posture and response in the event of an incident

A successful, or even unsuccessful, attack would have consequences well beyond the target facility and could result in:

• Many casualties and structural damage
• Activation of emergency services, such as law enforcement, fire, and rescue, taxing available resources in the community/region
• Jobs and businesses being lost, affecting mall owners and insurance companies
• A reduction in consumer spending and tourism if individuals do not feel safe in public venues

Security personnel are the first line of defense for a facility in the event of an attack or plotted attack. However, security officers are generally trained to handle and detect property crimes and crimes against the individual, not how to prevent and respond to terrorist-related incidents. Incorporating this type of terrorism-related training is just one protective measure that malls can take. Incident planning and preparation is also vital.

Some options for consideration are:

• Establish security procedures and a threat alert system, including a go-to person or telephone number for mall tenants to report suspicious activity
• Establish terrorism training programs for security staff
• Maintain an open line of communication with local law enforcement
• Know the delivery vehicles and staff who are routinely on the property
• Install security cameras around the property and facility
• Inform tenants and local law enforcement if there is concern about a special event that is to be held at the mall
• Maintain close liaison with tenants who might be logical terrorist targets
• Watch for people and actions that are out of place
• Make note of suspicious statements, people, items, and/or vehicles
• Eliminate any information from shopping center websites that may provide security information to

Any suspicious activity should be reported to local law enforcement immediately.

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