December 27, 2011 On Tuesday, security at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota was increased following a series of fights that broke out on Monday afternoon.
While the disturbance occurred on the day after Christmas, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, the nation’s largest shopping venue, Mall of America which averages 100,000 visitors a day should be exceptionally prepared for such an event.
Following 9/11, a compiled annual list of likely terrorist targets placed the mall as the second or third most likely target based on a Homeland Security risk-based formula. Why? Let me make the case.
Currently, I am in the final stages of writing a book on the changing role of U.S private security guards role in a post 9/11 world in which shopping malls, especially the Mall of America are examined.
The 9/11 commission estimated that eighty-five percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure is privately owned and privately patrolled. Therefore, security guards are the first line of defense at the overwhelming majority of U.S. venues – everything from nuclear power plants to shopping malls. Consequently, the Department of Homeland Security’s role is limited to suggestions and incentives, except in special events such as the Super Bowl.
Worldwide, shopping malls are a place in which people, sometimes in the thousands congregate for shopping, entertainment and dining.
In October 2008, I sat down with then Bloomington, Minnesota police chief John Laux to discuss the security measures in place at the Mall of America. The Mall security is a private force that at the time did not grant interviews to grad students. Chief Laux was gracious enough to provide details regarding the ‘top secret’ 100 plus force and the close relationship with the Bloomington police, Hennipin County Sheriff’s office, rail security and Minniapolis Police Department.
The most visited ‘Megamall’ in the world opened its doors on August 11, 1992. Since then, more than 40 million people visit the shopping mall annually not counting 12,000 mall and store employees – eight times the population of the state of Minnesota.
Long-time Mall spokesman, Dan Jasper said no significant injuries were reported but called Monday’s incident “disturbing.”
“As a preventive measure we will ramp up security even more this week to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Jasper said.
At least 30 officers from two police stations inside the mall and Mall of America’s security force were at the scene of the fights which resulted in nine arrests.
The Mall security force is no stranger to the risks that groups of youth and young adults pose to shoppers security. The mall was the first in the U.S. to enact a controversial “parental escort policy” in 1996. Other malls throughout the country followed suit, imposing curfews for unescorted teens ranging from 6 pm to 9:30 pm.
Some stores reportedly closed after the fights broke out, but the mall remained opened.