CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Columns

September 25, 2013

Why shopping malls are attractive targets for terrorists

WASHINGTON — The scale of the terrorist siege at Nairobi's Westgate Mall, which now appears to have finally ended after four days, may have been unprecedented. But the notion of shopping centers as tempting targets for terrorist attacks is hardly new.

A 2006 analysis from the Rand Corporation warned that, "in terms of their potential role as terrorist targets, shopping centers present numerous challenges for security." At the time, they reported that there had been over 60 terrorist attacks against shopping centers in 21 countries since 1998. There have been several reported international terrorist threats against malls in the United States over the years, though none have been carried out.

Obviously, any "soft target" where large crowds of people gather are going to be tempting for attackers. Malls "allow unimpeded access to the public and attract a wide cross-section of the nation's population," the Rand authors write. But they also suggest that the business model of malls makes the marginal cost of additional security measures extremely high and leads to most of them being relatively unprotected.

Shopping centers "differ markedly from facilities like airports, which provide an essential service with few alternatives," they write. "For this reason, shopping center customers and tenants may not tolerate the expense and inconvenience of increased security." There's also the fact that malls often have complex, multi-stakeholder ownership structures which "increases the difficulties of implementing security and other risk-reduction measures."

The authors say after a catastrophic attack, customers and businesses might become more tolerant of security measures like metal detectors, as they did with airports in the wake of 9/11. However, events have shown that even measures that the public wouldn't tolerate in most countries might not be enough to keep customers safe.

In the wake of a 2005 bombing outside the entrance to a shopping mall in Netanya, Israel in 2006, The New York Times noted that "Most shopping malls, stores, restaurants and other public buildings in Israel have guards and often metal detectors at the entrances," but unfortunately, "the checks also create lines, which sometimes become targets."

Again, the Nairobi attack was a unique case. The Westgate mall is a potent symbol of Kenya's rising middle class - in stark contrast to neighboring Somalia - and also attracts an international clientele. But it's definitely the first time such a place has been targeted, and assuming most countries aren't willing to turn malls into fortresses, it's probably not a threat that's going away.



 

1
Text Only
Columns
  • COMMENTARY: A break from the campaign rhetoric

    The collective sigh of relief felt throughout Cullman Wednesday morning signaled the end of another primary political season the previous night. As Wednesday’s Times headline told us, it was a clean sweep.

    July 21, 2014

  • Harris Coleman COMMENTARY: Billy Coleman, a true statesman

    King Solomon said, “Pride will ruin people, but those who are humble will be honored.” He also said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Billy Coleman, the past elected superintendent of Cullman County Schools, is the living example of these wise statements of truth.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • COMMENTARY: Twisty road back to Cullman

    The young journalist who was somewhat listening to the elder newspaperman on the other side of the desk didn’t have a clue.

    July 19, 2014

  • Commentary: Why your Facebook friends are so gullible

    These stories aren't real. They're the work of the New Yorker's not-particularly-funny online satirist Andy Borowitz, but many people, not just your gullible Facebook friends, invariably believe them. Sometimes the official state news agencies of global superpowers believe them.

    March 19, 2014

  • OPINION: Who belongs in the delivery room?

    Should a father be allowed in the delivery room for the birth of his child, over the mother's objections? A New Jersey judge said no last November, in a ruling that was released in writing earlier this week.

    March 13, 2014

  • SLATE COMMENTARY: Should Detroit be allowed to issue its own visas to immigrants?

    Under the plan, immigrants coming to the U.S. under visas aimed at those with "advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in science, business or the arts" would be "required to live and work in Detroit, a city that has fallen to 700,000 residents from 1.8 million in the 1950s."

    January 29, 2014

  • COMMENTARY: Rules for babies in restaurants

    "Maybe Don't Bring Your Baby to a 3-Star Restaurant," Jezebel suggests, in response to a kerfuffle over a Chicago couple bringing their 8-month-old to the ultraexclusive restaurant Alinea because their babysitter canceled.

    January 17, 2014

  • WORKOUT-WEAR2.jpg COMMENTARY: Workout Wear Friday? No sweat, boss!

    People in fitness gear are more likely to exercise — or at least to think about it. So let's get everyone in comfortable, moisture-wicking outfits once a week to demonstrate our commitment to physical activity.

    January 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • The Undead and the Unborn

    In this season of ghosts and ghouls, we seem to respect the undead more than the unborn. How unfortunate. Witness the popularity of television programs featuring blood sucking vampires and walking corpses, while in Texas, a new provision making it difficult for women to get an abortion is immensely unpopular. How unbelievable.

    November 28, 2013

  • Google Is Google wrecking our memory?

    Is the Internet ruining our ability to remember facts? If you've ever lunged for your smartphone during a bar argument, then you've no doubt felt the nagging fear that your in-brain memory is slowly draining away.

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo