Criminal Justice

Questions About Mall Security, But No New Answers

As experts and ordinary Americans pondered the shooting massacre of eight people at an Omaha, Neb., shopping mall this week, most seemed to agree that there is little that can be done, at least as a practical matter, to prevent such isolated acts of violence.

The crime has not ignited a call for gun control, for instance, even though most Americans want it, and politicians are wary of those who oppose it, reports Reuters. “Although people who favor increased gun control in the United States are a substantial majority, those who oppose it are far more intense in their opposition and far more likely to vote on the basis of that issue alone,” explains Bill Galston. He is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

At the same time, those in charge of shopping malls are loath even to consider security measures such as metal detectors—which are common in Israel—even though shopping malls can be attractive targets to terrorists and troubled individuals who want to hurt others, reports USA Today.

The 19-year-old who went on a shooting spree on Wednesday at the Westroads Mall had a troubled history involving foster care, psychiatric treatment, depression, drug use and death threats dating back to when he was 14 years old, according to the Associated Press and an Omaha World-Herald article reprinted in the Arizona Daily Star (reg. req.) Robert Hawkins also had recently lost both his job and his girlfriend, but his friends say he appeared to be coping well with the situation, reports a Today Show contributor in an Internet article.

As detailed in an earlier post, a lawyer was one of at least five people injured in the mall shooting, in addition to the eight shoppers and employees killed by Hawkins before he committed suicide in a department store.

It’s helpful to have trained law enforcement officers watching shoppers before they enter the mall, one expert tells CNN. But another points out that no one who knew Robert Hawkins well thought he was a ticking time bomb.

“If the people closest to him didn’t see any indicators or signs that he was going to go off so drastically … how is some public safety officer supposed to recognize this person?” says Don Greene, a former FBI agent and the author of a book on mall security.

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