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.