In a civilized society, we take our safety in a shopping mall for granted. We should feel safe, especially in an affluent place like the Silicon Valley, where the most recent mall stabbing to make the news took place.
The Valley Fair Mall is a gem of a property in the Westfield collection. Even among their many impressive malls, it is an impressive collection of upscale retail shops, including an Apple store in the shadow of the mother ship. It's the kind of place where beautiful people meander about, exchanging smiles and pleasantries.
But at 7:21 last Friday night, an exchange became violent, and when the commotion dissipated, at least two shoppers had been stabbed and five suspects had run out of the mall (those suspects were, thank goodness and the San Jose PD, apprehended on neighboring streets by officers shortly thereafter).
Our operators have experience helping malls recover from violent incidents. In those situations, the objective is to secure the safety of the patrons as quickly and obviously as possible, so that the management team can broadcast the recovery to the consumer base and to the retail community. Here are the steps we've assisted to get the traffic back after the violence:
1. Reestablish an obvious, comforting presence for consumers and those who work in the mall.
Circle the security wagons and revisit the importance of customer service and soft skills. We will typically lead the charge with one or two Delta teams - pairs of plain-clothed, armed operators patrolling the mall strictly to prevent violence in the aftermath, and an increased uniformed presence. And we leak the news. Shoppers who come back need not be intimidated by exposed firearms roaming around, but those who would disrupt the safety of others need to be aware that there is a responding force of trained and capable operators. They quickly take themselves and their behavior elsewhere.
2. Spread the word among the store managers and their teams.
Delta team(s) will stop by the shops and introduce themselves to the retailers, so we can make it known that we are close by specifically for their safety, and to make our faces familiar in the event of an incident. Their staff will help make it known that security is a priority in the area.
3. Re-engage with local police and get their guidance for responding to emergencies.
Revisit and refresh policies for your security teams' procedures in particular types of emergencies and their expectations for police response and times.
4. Make re-engagement permanent.
Allow the incident to usher in a new culture of more open and more frequent communication between security staff and mall patrons and retail workers. Refresh security officers' objectives and procedures. Make consumers' experience pleasant in every interaction. Tighten the reins for habitual trespassers and shoplifters. Make clear who is welcome at the mall and how much the staff values their safety and appreciates their patronage.
Here is a link to the local news story.
Focus on his intentions would have given me the element of surprise. I carry a concealed weapon every day (with the proper permit, of course). I am required to qualify with my weapon, I am trained, and I practice often. In short, had I walked in on that situation, I would have been the right man at the right time. And let us suppose that the timing would have allowed for me to see the situation unfold, and that I was able to drop the assailant at the instant of his attempt.
Herein lies the quandary: Assailant raises his weapon, I draw mine somewhere out of his focus, holler for him to drop it, he does not, and I drop him. In that instant, we have two officers reacting, presumably drawing their weapons, to an ambush with someone shot and someone else holding a smoking gun. Yesterday I was wearing jeans, sneakers, and a green hoodie. Take the information you digested reading this paragraph and condense it all down to 1.5 seconds, the time you have to make a decision about what to do next. Amplify that information with the knowledge that your uniform makes you a target, your ears are ringing from the gunfire, there is panic all around you, and your occupation instantly puts you in charge of public safety. And then put a gun in your hand. What would your reaction have been? And know that your answer is really only valid if you can say what you have done in that situation because you have been in it.
I am confident in the intentions of the two officers who were on their break, enjoying a cup of coffee. I pray that in that situation, I am able to identify myself to them (again, everyone's ears are ringing and you don't know what anyone can hear or perceive when you say you're one of the good guys) before they drop the guy who just shot someone. But if, in the pandemonium of that situation, they neutralize the chaos of gunfire by shooting the shooter (you know, the one who happened to be dressed like the Unabomber), could you blame them?
Complimenting Security in the Dispensary Business
One of the most likely outcomes in the upcoming election is the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in California. As in Colorado and Washington, one of the biggest challenges that pot purveyors face is what to do with all the cash. With high value transactions, many stores are generating revenue in excess of $25,000 per day, and because federal laws prohibit financial institutions from accepting deposits from pot shops, those transactions are all in cash. Shop owners are faced with bags of cash at the end of a good day, and have to transport it.
Many shopkeepers simply take it home, and leave the cash in safes in their basements. In doing so, their safety rests in their concealment. Pack and transport quietly, look over both shoulders, make sure not to go home with a tail. Pay taxes and large obligations in cash, and try to keep attention at bay by using the banking system as sparingly as is functionally possible. For many, for now, this is the right - the only - answer.
Some of the most successful shopkeepers, however, enjoy added security by using executive protection operators to escort them when they transport large amounts of cash or product. Individuals or small teams, sometimes comprised of an operator riding along, appearing as a casual passenger, but providing armed protection and strategic observation of traffic and surroundings, and as necessary, complimented with a discretely armed motorcycle or second car escort to expand the protection perimeter. This measure of protection is designed primarily to identify a threat or an unnecessary risk, secondarily to avert risk by taking additional precautions, and lastly to neutralize threat in a robbery or kidnapping attempt. The more precautions and the more preparedness, the better the odds that everyone remains safe and the package arrives without incident.
Two incidents took place during Kim Kardashian West's recent trip to Paris for Fashion Week. First, highlighting the effectiveness of her personal security detail, Ms. Kardashian's personal escort thwarted the attempt by serial protestor/celebrity annoyer Vitalii Sediuk to plant a kiss on her posterior (click on the link below).
The second incident happened while her personal security detail was not protecting her. Ms. Kardashian West thought she was safely tucked away in the ultra-exclusive Hôtel de Pourtalès. Several assailants, at least one of whom was armed, entered the hotel, bound a doorman, and made their way up to the luxury unit. They forced their way into the apartment, tied and gagged Ms. Kardashian West, and stole jewelry worth nearly $9 million. Neither she nor her children, thankfully, were injured in the robbery, but was understandably shaken.
Her security detail, had they been on duty, would likely have posted an operator at the door or in the lobby, at the first line of attack. His presence would have given the opportunity to address the attack at the first floor, while the operator in charge of her care would have initiated her urgent evacuation plan or barricaded her in place and prepared to defend his position while awaiting a police response. Either way, proper security would likely have deterred the attack or allowed for an outcome where the assailants could have been apprehended and the robbery avoided. Or, said differently, an investment of a few thousand dollars would have averted a loss of several million.
Straight from the headlines