The South Shore Plaza in Braintree.

Credit: John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

Perimeter Security, Surveillance Cameras, And Undercover Police At Malls To Minimize Risk

November 23, 2015

Early morning shoppers inside the TJ Maxx at the Dedham Mall are focused on bargains, most are shuffling through cloth racks and staring at price tags. But Erica Bush of Milton isn’t thinking about the best deal. She came to the store at this time for another reason.

"I came here at this time of the day when I know it wasn’t going to be crowded and its not attractive to people looking to do things like that," Bush said.

She's talking about terror attacks like the ones in Paris and Kenya. With a busy holiday season coming up, Bush says she’s staying away from malls and other so-called soft targets

"No, I’m not interested in being at the mall at 7 or 8 o’clock, so it does make me more conscious of what I'm doing, more apt to shop online," she said. Terrorism expert and WGBH News contributor Juliette Kayyem says you can’t live in fear.

"You want a world with a promise that nothing bad will ever happen, but that’s not the world we live in and its not a world you would want to live in," she said.

Kayyem says people should live their lives knowing that — from the federal government all the way down to mall security —there’s an ongoing safety effort.

"There are a number of things though that are in place to minimize the risk, right?" Kayyem said. "There is security on the perimeter, there are video cameras, there are both undercover police presence as well as overt police presence, and so all of those different layers we call it layered security are there to minimize the risk."

We reached out to several mall management companies, but none would talk, citing policy not to discuss security. Kayyem says expect to see more uniforms.

"Most malls increase their presence around the holidays," she said. "The more people you have, the more likely things go wrong."

And she gave some insight into how they may do their job.

"Part of it is accessing the risk," she said. "For a mall, it would be, 'Is it an open area? Is it an enclosed area?'"

Crowded malls seem like a perfect spot for a potential attack — maybe a bombing — but it's not that easy.

"Of course, the use of technology, videos and other kind of hardened security, that will, if not prevent something, let you know whats going on in real time or after the fact," she said.

"I'm not going to change the way I shop because in my opinion if you hide from it and stay at home, you're kind of giving in to the terrorism and i think that’s what they want," said shopper Patrick Colantuoni.

Colantuoni always pays attention to his surroundings and will do so more than ever this holiday season, but he refuses to do anything else differently.

"They base their campaign on fear, I think, and that would be letting them win, in my belief," he said. "I'm not going to let that happen. I'm not going to change my life and live in fear."

That’s the point terrorism experts are driving home.

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