The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

September 25, 2013

Nairobi attack puts spotlight on mall safety

(Continued)

In the U.S., the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group of shopping centers representing about one third of retail space globally, said the U.S. government's Department of Homeland Security is reaching out to corporate security at all malls.

At the same time, the group said some of the 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.

In general, U.S. malls focus on reacting to a shooting more than preventing one. Malls depend on private security personnel, most of whom don't carry guns, though they do work with local police. And while they're trained to look for suspicious behavior and report that to authorities, they're discouraged from intervening.

"Shoppers at this point perhaps don't have an appetite for extraordinary measures," said Kenneth Hamilton, executive vice president of IPC International, the largest provider of shopping center security of malls in the U.S.

Indeed, heightened security hasn't been welcomed in U.S. malls. The International Council of Shopping Centers spent $2 million to develop a terrorism training program after the Sept. 2011 terrorist attacks in the U.S. But surveys conducted by the group following the attacks show that people don't want to be subjected to metal detectors and bag searches at malls.

Jeff Wohl, 45, of Atlanta, said Tuesday that while he's horrified by the Nairobi attack, he doesn't want to go through bag checks at malls. "Any public gathering ... can become a target," he said. "But you have to live your life."

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