In Wake of Terror Threat, Retail Associations Tout Security at Malls

The International Council of Shopping Centers says the Mall of America and the organization's other member malls have been preparing for the worst long before a recent threat surfaced from a Somalian terror group.

With word of a potential terror threat against malls in the United States and other Western countries, a key industry group says its members are prepared for the worst—and then some.

On Saturday a video believed to be produced by the Somalian rebel group al-Shabab encouraged Muslims to attack shopping centers, mentioning the Mall of America, near Minneapolis, along with malls in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The group, which has links to al-Qaida, has previously committed such a terror attack. In September 2013 al-Shabab took responsibility for a deadly attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. However, officials the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) emphasized that there was no evidence of “any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center.”

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), which represents the shopping center industry, says it’s doing everything it can to ensure its members are prepared for any security risks. It notes, however, that its efforts aren’t new; in fact, ever since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the trade association’s members have worked with federal, state, and local law enforcement bodies to improve training and security efforts.

But the average shopper may not be aware of this extra protection.

“While some security measures deployed at shopping centers such as the use of bollards, uniformed patrols by law enforcement officers, and surveillance camera systems will be evident to consumers, many more protective measures will not,” the association said in a news release. “When it comes to protecting and securing a shopping center, many factors are taken into consideration and security plans and procedures are customized to each center’s unique characteristics. In short, there is no-one-size fits all approach taken when it comes to developing and deploying a security program.”

Speaking specifically to the Mall of America’s safety measures at this juncture, ICSC President and CEO Michael Kercheval told CNBC that the country’s largest shopping center was particularly well-prepared on the security front.

“I think the Mall of America has all of the protections it could possibly have from the local security force, and they have been vigilant since 9/11 in stepping up the security to make sure everyone is safe and feels safe in the shopping centers,” Kercheval told the network during Monday’s Closing Bell.

These security efforts extend to general retailers as well—not just those located in malls. Speaking to Bloomberg, National Retail Federation Spokeswoman Kathy Grannis said employees of the organization’s member companies will be doing drills throughout the month, following NRF’s active-shooter guidelines.

These guidelines were developed in 2008 with the help of DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and were most recently updated last year.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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