December 16, 2007

ISSUE: -- After a teenager killed eight people and then himself in a Nebraska mall, local malls are trying to send a message that their shopping centers are safe.

Cpl. Mark Shawkey, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Police Department, said the shooting didn't prompt additional policing efforts.

"It's heightened their awareness," Shawkey said of the officers and security guards who patrol shopping centers. "They're more in tune and will be on the lookout for those types of things, especially groups congregating in the food court and other parts of the mall."

There's even more security during the busy holiday season, which can account for as much as 40 percent of sales. Do you feel safe as you do your holiday shopping at area shopping malls and plazas?

Malls ill-equipped to protect shoppers

I do not feel safe shopping at malls. Assaults are commonplace in the Columbia and Arundel Mills malls and parking lots. Mall security is unarmed -- for the sake of not scaring shoppers -- and outnumbered. The massacres at malls in Nebraska and Utah this year, along with last week's shootings in two Colorado worship centers, clearly illustrate that no amount of security and surveillance can guarantee our safety.

A shooter does not care about gun laws, or need a concealed-carry firearm permit. Nor will he heed the silly "Gun-Free Zone" signs posted at malls. Instead, he will carry out a massacre knowing that it will take police 15 minutes to respond, set up a command center, wait for SWAT and enter the mall. I am surprised terrorists have not used this attack model yet; multiple, simultaneous mall attacks would scare people away from shopping malls and cripple the U.S. economy.

We are constantly subjected to danger in public places and stripped of the ability to defend ourselves (pun intended). I am doing my shopping online this year from the comfort of my castle, and I predict a lot of people will be doing the same.

Alexander Rey Columbia

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