Somalian gunmen ambushed the Westgate Premier Shopping Mall on Saturday armed with grenades and firing weapons, killing at least 30 people and injuring dozens more. Several people trapped inside the shopping mall are being held hostage. Police are negotiating with the gunmen for the safe release of the hostages.
Law enforcement officials are calling the incident a robbery gone wrong. However, witnesses suspect the deadly shooting was an act of terrorism.
A Reuters photographer said he saw five bodies outside the shopping mall.
Worldwide, security at "soft targets" such as shopping malls, where people, sometimes in the thousands congregate for shopping, entertainment and dining remains inadequate. Private security guard training, education and high turnover rates are cited as problematic even in the most experienced countries, such as Israel and the United Kingdom.
In the U.S., the 9/11 Commission estimated that eighty-five percent of the nation's critical infrastructure is privately owned and privately patrolled. Therefore, security guards are the first line of defense at the overwhelming majority of U.S. venues - everything from nuclear power plants to shopping malls. Consequently, the Department of Homeland Security's role is limited to suggestions and incentives, except in special events such as the Super Bowl.
Mass shootings at United States shopping malls are increasing. In an effort to combat the increasing violence, former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano partnered with shopping mall owners to implement the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign in 2010.
There are several steps needed to keep shoppers safer at shopping malls. The overwhelming majority of U.S. private security guards are unarmed. One mall security guard said in the event of a shooting, they were instructed to dial 911. In the minutes it takes police to arrive at the scene, most if not all the damage is done.
In order to arm U.S. security guards, more training and education are required, which is costly. Also, skilled security guards would mean higher wages and most shopping mall management, unless mandated are unwilling to pay.