As we prepare for terrorism, many are focused on the airline and shipping industries while forgetting about the shopping mall and places of entertainment, where people gather in unsuspecting large numbers. In fact, the threat of a terrorist attack on shopping centers is not only possible, but likely, according to Kerodin International Security and Policy Consultants (Valley, 2004). An analysis titled “Terrorism Forecast: 2003,” offers a logical explanation as to why terrorism attacks against American shopping centers, malls, fast-food restaurants, bars and night clubs using chemical and biological agents, backpack bombs and firearms, could occur within months.
In a shopping mall, many strangers converge, including many youths who “hang out.” Even though most customers drive to the mall, its interior provides a sea of pedestrians that is reminiscent of a convergent city. Drug sales and purchases are common in the central areas of some malls, where illegal buyers and sellers can easily find places to congregate or walk around. So can the terrorist who intend to plant a bomb in a store, bathroom or in an area designed to bring down the walls. Valley (2004) believes “Weekly attacks designed to break the will of the average American will commence as bombings begin in public buses and metro rail facilities, coffee shops, malls, shopping centers and entertainment facilities.” Bars and nightclubs are also unsuspecting places for criminal behavior and terrorist activities. From employees stealing from the business, to employees getting robbed while on the job or walking to their cars at 4 a.m., this is a real security problem. Just as outdoor cafes are often targeted by tterrorists in Europe and the Middle East; it is very easy for a back-pack bomb or purse to be placed under a table in an upscale sushi restaurant, or in the bathroom of a “dive” bar.
The objective of shopping center and entertainment facility owners should not be to turn their properties into fortresses, because doing so would obviously be bad for business. Instead, it is important to determine whether a particular center or club is a potential target and implement security measures that act as a sufficient deterrent. Even if you believe your business is not a potential target, certain measures should be put in place to make customers feel safe. A detailed security needs assessment for a high profile shopping center or entertainment district is a small price to pay for peace of mind. When the criminals and terrorists are looking for a target, you do not want your business to look like the easiest one on the block. Now, try to imagine explaining to the media and families of victims, whether or not the security level at your place of business was adequate.