NEW YORK – Some malls around the world have been scrambling to add security guards to look for suspicious people after a deadly attack on a shopping center in Nairobi over the weekend. But for other malls, it’s been business as usual.
The mixed reactions by malls across the globe isn’t unusual in an industry whose security efforts vary widely. There are unarmed guards in most shopping centers in the U.S., metal detectors and bag searches in places like Israel, and entrances that resemble airport security lines in India.
The disparity offers a glimpse at why any changes in response to the Nairobi incident to increase mall security in countries that have less strict procedures aren’t likely to last: The industry continues to struggle with how to keep shoppers safe without scaring them away.
No one wants, when you go shopping, to be strip-searched, to be interviewed in a room by a security guard, said Simon Bennett, a director in the civil safety and security unit at the University of Leicester in England. That might be acceptable in aviation, but it is not in commercial retail.
Security concerns come after 12 to 15 al-Shabab militants, wielding grenades, took control of a mall in Nairobi. Terrorists held Kenya security forces for four days, killing at least 67 civilians and government troops and injuring 175 others.
In the U.S., the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group of shopping centers, said the Department of Homeland Security is reaching out to corporate security at all malls.
At the same time, the group said some malls in the U.S. and South Africa are beefing up private security personnel, while others are bringing in more off-duty police officers.
Mall of America, the biggest U.S. mall, added extra uniformed security officers and stepped up other measures, but officials at the Bloomington, Minn.-based mall declined to elaborate.
We will ... remain vigilant as we always do in similar situations, said Dan Jasper, a mall spokesman.