Investigations

Focus on mall security after NJ mall gunfire

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The gunfire at Garden State Plaza once again puts the focus on mall security.

What procedures are used to keep large crowds safe at such public places?

Most of the training surrounding mall security is focused on reaction to a shooting, not prevention. That was the case Monday night.

Before the SWAT teams even arrived, the mall's unarmed security guards served their role as the first line of defense against the armed intruder.

"Other two ladies were scared, I told them to go back into the storage room and close the door and I'll secure the front doors," a security guard said.

The Garden State Plaza, along with other New Jersey malls has conducted emergency response drills similar to this one recently carried out at a California mall. It's an initiative that gained urgency after the deadly 2009 Mumbai India terrorist attack.

"These security officers or guards are being trained in lockdown, evacuation in some cases, even giving first aid to someone who has been wounded," said Paul Goldenberg, a mall security expert.

By most accounts, the training paid off Monday night with a swift evacuation of shoppers and quick response by police. Fortunately, the gunman had no intention of harming others, but what about the next time, is there any way to prevent an armed killer from entering a mall?

"Very difficult, very difficult to secure," said Spencer Coursen, a security expert.

An expert on soft-target security says metal detectors are the only way to prevent mall shootings and while they're used in Israel, he says the Americans simply aren't ready to accept that. Instead, mall security has to rely on other measurers.

"You can use cameras to monitor coming and goings, you can train staff on behavior patterns, you can recruit local assets," Coursen said.

Since September 11th, Garden State Plaza has added more exits with the goal of making it easier to evacuate the mall in an emergency.

It also has installed highly sophisticated surveillance cameras as a means to tighten security.

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paramus, new jersey, shooting, investigations, jim hoffer
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