This week’s Omaha shopping mall shooting shows that with its open spaces, its crowds, its accessibility, a mall can be a predator’s dream, says USA Today. Security officials have been concerned – particularly since the 9/11 attacks – that malls could become “soft targets” for terrorists: places where large groups congregate and that are difficult to secure. Yet trying to make them safer, Israeli-style, could threaten malls’ future by making them less successful. Ed Bridgeman of the criminal justice program at the University of Cincinnati Clermont College says: “You have belt buckles, change in pockets. Going through a checkpoint could be the kind of thing that drives people to QVC” – the TV shopping network.
Considering how many people go to malls – 190 million a month – they have relatively little crime, says Robert McCrie, professor of security management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Last year, a Justice Department-funded study found little investment in extra security at big shopping centers and inadequate emergency plans. The Police Foundation report, based on a survey of state homeland security advisers and mall security directors, said some shopping centers had 100 percent turnover in security officers each year. Most mall security guards, including those working Wednesday in Omaha, do not carry guns. Just one-third of mall security directors surveyed said they had rehearsed emergency plans with local law enforcement agencies. None of the malls visited by researchers conducted joint exercises with police or other first responders.