Malls, stores consider new ways to protect shoppers


Associated Press

NEW YORK

More sophisticated cameras. Security robots. Customers feeling shaken by recent attacks at U.S. malls may not notice huge changes – but mall operators are testing and putting in place new technologies and other measures to offer people more protection without intruding too much on their shopping time.

Mall executives say shoppers have been adamantly opposed to airport security tactics such as metal detectors. So they’re trying other things, and increasingly using mass notifications that let them send text and email alerts to tenants within seconds in case of a crisis.

Concerns about safety have been heightened by the attacks. Those included a shooting in the makeup area of a Macy’s store near Seattle, where five people died, as well as stabbings at a Minnesota mall where 10 people were injured before a police officer shot the assailant.

The recent attacks are “awful tragedies,” and at the top of retailers’ minds, said Lisa LaBruno, a senior vice president at the Retail Industry Leaders Association trade group. She was attending an already-scheduled meeting about security this week with store executives. “They are committed to reassessing the situation and identifying ways in which they can mitigate risks.”

Still, she and other industry experts acknowledge that mall and store operators don’t have much control over actually stopping any incident from happening. They do say they hope to minimize any threat and focus on keeping people safe.

Shopper surveys done every April by the International Council of Shopping Centers show that people aren’t interested in metal detectors or similar tactics, the trade association said. “They don’t want to be impeded as they go about their lives,” said Malachy Kavanagh, a spokesman for the mall association.

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