With the continuing threats brought to us by our AL Quaeda and Taliban enemies and the outbreak of new TV shows that reinforce the danger we all face on a daily basis, one must look within as to how we can protect ourselves from threats both real and imagined. I said imagined because we can become either hypochondriacs or completely oblivious to the dangers around us.
The situations we will focus on in this brief evaluation are those where large volumes of people congregate on a daily basis. Much has been written about airports and how the Government has stepped in to facilitate the security of baggage and boardings etc. Although Schools and theatres could be targeted, one area I would like to review is the Mall, which we have first hand knowledge of since we frequent them almost daily. The mall, some large and some small all handle large volumes of people daily. Its close proximity to the airports has caused me to visualize a frightening scenario from time to time. This also should be addressed in any critique of physical protection
Security for malls throughout the country is based on protecting the occupants and the property primarily from fire and water damage.
Mall security are usually not trained in protecting shoppers from criminal actions. This exclusion in training on a primary and continual basis is a danger faced by the visitors and businesses that expect protection.
Most security guards are usually hired because they are between jobs, work cheap and don’t ask a lot of questions. Training consists of reading a manual. It is not the job of the Security Guard to use force. The primary use of Security personnel is to walk the Mall during the business day and to report from time to time that they have gone into a tenant’s space and shown their presence.
Over the years the defensive tools used by security personnel has been reduced to carrying a set of handcuffs, which can only be used under the direction of a local law enforcement Officer in the completion of his duty. Again, without basic and ongoing training, the uniformed Protective Services officer is of no other use than to be seen. Physical contact with individuals is totally prohibited due to the same reason above. Lack of training creates liability to the Mall and to the officer.
The physical plant known as a Mall has many egresses and entrances. Unlawful entrance and egress from the stores occur at all times of the day or night. In many cases doors are intentionally left open to allow easy access to various parts of the building by not only the Mall employees but many of the store personnel as well. Damaged doors and poor maintenance precludes the hazards to all visitors and employees as well. The ability to enter the building and to cause damage, either intentionally or unintentionally should be of paramount concern as well as injury to visitors and employees from individuals who may be emotionally, politically or criminally motivated. Daytime situations are normally different than evening and overnight due to the fact that more personnel are available and more activity promotes little opportunity for problematic situations. On one hand this combination of light and sound along with the presence of people creates the environment for
terrorism and or criminal acts. During the evening hours there is the added problem produced by teenagers and young adults who
create disturbances which distracts mall security from even the minor protection of visability. The use of force has been all but totally removed from their arsenal of protection. .
Video surveillance, on the most part, functions well. The worst problem is the lack of light particularly in the parking lot. Often the failure of pole lights creates blackout areas during evening hours. This makes it impossible to check activities from the control center. If an emergency requires immediate assistance it is almost inevitable that help will take longer than an attackers weapon. Video cameras with night vision capabilities provide the minimal protection in a lot. The inability to patrol and or visually observe the site have created criminal acts from break-ins,vandalism and murder. Using the parking lot or a lover’s lane cannot be tolerated.
Without listing banal conclusions to these initial thoughts, lets recognize the need to be aware of that, which surrounds us. Remember, God is in the details!
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