Killing spree at Omaha mall

I was wathcing this morning’s edition of “Bulls and Bears” on Fox television. The host, Brenda Butner was talking about the Omaha, Nebraska mall killings of this past week and talking about the likelihood of many people staying away from the mall when it opens today, for the first time since the massacre.

Ms. Butner’s guests rightfullly pointed out that while it was a very violent and unfortunate incident, it would not force consumers to stay at home nor bring down the economy. People know that a crime perpetrated by a disturbed teenager,albeit heinous in nature,is a “once off” type of incident and hopefully will never re-occur – at least not at that particular location.

One thing that does strike me however, is the importance for mall security to be ever vigilant and proactive in spotting danger as early as possible and endeavouring to “nip it in the bud”. After the terrible events of 9/11, many people tend to think that all terrorists have a “certain” look – perhaps they expect them all to look Middle Eastern. However, this disturbed teenager, Robert Hawkins and if you go back to the Oklahoma bombing, Timothy McVeigh, looked like your typical “guy next door” american. I think there is no question in any of our minds that they both inflicted terror into the hearts of their victims and survivors alike.

Much information has come to light about the mindset of those who mean us harm folloing 9/11. We now know, through the disemination of seized terrorist training manuals and interviews, that terrorists plan to attack us in places where large crowds gather – malls, cinemas, football games, concerts, etc. Mall management companies owe it to consumers to protect them as they go about their daily lives spending money in their premises.

One of the first rules that we teach security officers is to always be aware and questioning their surroundings. Malls should post security officers at entrance doors and observe those entering. If a person entering a mall is smuggling in an assault rifle, as Robert Hawkins did, they should appear suspicious and have been approached. Surveillance cameras should be placed liberally throughout the mall and the entire area should be kept under observation and continually scanned for suspicious behaviour.

The world has changed greatly these past six years and malls need to realize that where 5 officers may have been sufficient in the past, now twice that number may be needed. Sure, it will be extra cost, but at the end of the day these management companies have a responsibility to protect us and we expect and deserve to be kept safe. If they fail to do that and terrible situations happen that may have been avoided if adequate security measures had been taken, the subsequent lawsuits are very likely to far outweigh those additional security costs.

While we are talking about safety, let us all do our parts to look out for each other. If something does not seem right, do not hesitate to bring it to a security officer’s attention. We are all in this together.

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