Safety measures heightened at local shopping centers for Black Friday weekend

After mass shootings killed dozens in Las Vegas and a small Texas church in recent months, shopping centers and malls are ensuring security protocols are robust for large crowds before the busy holiday shopping season.

Regional malls and shopping centers have seen violent crimes in recent years, but nationally retailers are more focused on combating theft and nonviolent crimes that cause loss of revenue for stores. An estimated 164 million people are planning to shop or considering shopping during Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.

A significant increase in store traffic can be a challenge for shopping malls and centers, and security firms are encouraging mall teams to ensure crowd control and identify suspicious behaviors during the busy holiday season. The busy shopping season comes on the heels of a string of mass shootings in populated areas. There has been more than 300 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2017, according to nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.

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At least 26 were killed and several others injured in a church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Another 58 died during a mass shooting at an October country concert in Las Vegas. Malls have also been impacted by mass shootings. Five people were killed in a mass shooting in 2016 at Cascade Mall in Washington. Another mass shooting at a Von Maur store in Nebraska left at least eight dead in 2007.

Global security firm GardaWorld encouraged malls to “provide situational awareness and security training to shopping mall’s personnel” before the holiday season.

“Threats your shopping mall personnel usually face are not severe. Yet, it’s important that they are trained to take appropriate actions in higher-risk scenarios to ensure everyone’s safety,” the security firm stated.

Local malls see shootings

Malls in the region have seen violent crimes within recent years. In May, a woman wounded a man during a shooting in a parking lot outside the Sears at Dayton Mall. The woman, Jordana Esses, fired 10 to 15 times and shot her boyfriend in the leg.

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Other shootings have also occurred near the Dayton Mall. In late December 2014, a 16-year-old Middletown student was shot and killed outside the Dayton Mall while trying to rob a concealed-carry permit holder of his newly purchased athletic shoes. Earlier that year, a 41-year-old Los Angeles man was fatally shot outside P.F. Chang's restaurant at 2626 Miamisburg-Centerville Road.

Both Dayton Mall and the Mall at Fairfield Commons are owned by Washington Prime Group, which previously told this news organization that safety is its top priority. Officials for The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek said they would not comment on specific security protocols.

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“We work closely with the local police departments and our own security teams to provide shoppers with a safe, pleasant shopping experience year round,” Shelley Sloan, regional marketing manager at Washington Prime Group, said in a statement.

From 2003-2008, there were 944 homicides involving workers in retail, according to a BLS study. Violent crimes occur more frequently in the parking lots of shopping centers, rather than in the actual malls. Parking lots are not a high priority for retailers when it comes to taking security precautions, Timothy L. Zehring, a risk assessment consultant, told STORES Magazine.

“If a retailer has 50 cameras on the premises, 47 of them will be in the store and three will be in the parking lot,” he said.

GardaWorld encouraged mall officials to “increase alertness within the team and emphasize the importance of fast emergency response” before Black Friday. The security company said high-risk areas during Black Friday include garbage cans, which are potential storage areas for stolen items, weapons, explosives and suspicious packages.

Combating theft

While shopping centers do prepare for catastrophic events like mass shootings, retailers are concerned with the day-to-day crimes that impact revenue. About 83 percent of merchants report an increase in organized retail crime, according to a 2016 study released by the NRF. About 89 percent of kids say they know other kids who shoplift.

“Retailers continue to deal with the challenges that come with fighting organized retail crime,” said NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention Bob Moraca. “Every day, criminals are getting more creative in the ways they manipulate the retail supply chain. Combating theft is a full-time job, and it is a constant battle industry-wide for retailers large and small to stay one step ahead of these savvy criminals.”

More than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the last five years, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. Some malls are combating this issue by implementing curfews for young adults. The Dayton Mall has a parental escort policy on Friday and Saturday evenings for children under the age of 16. The Greene also has security officers, called guest assistance personnel, that wear shoulder radios and monitor activity in-person and via security cameras, according to the center’s website.

Criminals are also finding ways to manipulate store return policies. According to the NRF survey, 68 percent of respondents said they had experienced thieves returning stolen merchandise for store credit, which is often resold to secondary-market buyers.

“Organized retail crime continues to impact retailers at a larger scale now more than ever before,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for Supply Chain and Custom Policy.


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