Mall of America Remains Safe, Security Expert Says
After a rise in shooting incidents at the Mall of America in the last year, the largest mall in the country has announced an increase in security measures, seen and unseen.
The mall has not shared details about these measures, but in a statement, the institution said it is now implementing periodic and unannounced bag checks at entrances while also significantly enhancing its security and police presence in coordination with the Bloomington Police Department.
In the last year, three incidents involving guns have occurred at stores in the Mall of America. In December, right before Christmas, 19-year-old Johntae Hudson was shot and killed and a bystander was injured in the mall’s Nordstrom department store. In August, shots were fired in a Nike store after a dispute, sparking fears of a mass shooting. Later in August, a man with a rifle was apprehended after trying to rob a hat store.
Despite these events, the mall remains a very safe space for visitors, Simon Osamoh, a security consultant and former head of counterterrorism at the mall, told TCB. The new measures are in addition to an extensive system of cameras and a robust security department with specialized units including K9, bike patrol, and plainclothes officers.
“I think it’s just a very challenging time, not only the Mall of America, but I think for all public venues who are looking at their security and saying, ‘What can we be doing better? What can we do to try and predict human behavior before it escalates to the point of action?'” said Osamoh, president and founder of Kingswood Security Consulting.
Violent crime incidents can be difficult to tackle proactively. With high-profile active shooting cases on the rise like the Uvalde school shooting and the shooting at a Walmart in Buffalo, New York, people fear random acts of violence committed against strangers, and rightfully so. However, the events that have occurred in the mall over the past year were all targeted, Osamoh notes.
“The challenge that the Mall of America will always have is that it is an open door, public venue,” he said.
The security professional identified two main areas public spaces can improve upon to increase safety: public and private collaboration, and partnership and increased use of technology to proactively identify a threat. Partnerships should include collaboration with both outside law enforcement departments and the stores leasing space in the mall, he said.
“This means exploring greater use of surveillance cameras that have analytics and facial recognition as they work with their police and law enforcement partners,” he said. “They can be given the intelligence on people of interest in or people who shouldn’t be in the mall, then the mall can approach and determine if that person should be removed.”
The mall first said it was considering upgrading its entrance protocols in October, a task that seemed logistically challenging at the time. The mall has long said that it attracts around 40 million people from around the world per year. With that many people circulating through the building, what can the mall control?
“The Mall of America can control who comes into their building, which is why we’re seeing these bag searches,” Osamoh said. “But would the bag searches have found the firearms in the previous two incidents at Nordstrom and Nike? Probably not, I don’t know how many criminals really carry a firearm in a bag.”