The Mall in Columbia was bustling with shoppers on Saturday, January 25, when gunshots rang out. A 19-year-old man had taken a taxi to the Maryland mall, headed to the second floor, taken out a gun and shot and killed two store employees. The gunman injured five other people before killing himself.
In recent years, shopping malls have been the location-of-choice for lone gunmen to take aim at strangers for reasons that are unknown to police investigators. In September, a 20-year-old man fired shots in the Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, New Jersey. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In December 2012, a 22-year-old gunman shot and killed two people at a suburban Portland, Oregon mall before killing himself.
These crimes are imprinted on the minds of shoppers who witnessed the shootings first-hand.Then there are those who do not want to go back to the mall for fear that it will happen again. It goes without saying that the loss of shoppers has an economic impact on the mall and its stores. Store employees are also leery of returning to work at a place that was a crime scene just 24 hours earlier.
In light of serious crimes occurring at malls, store owners now have more security and legal issues to consider in operating their shops.
Securing your store
Mall managers are taking steps to beef up security. This means hiring more security guards, collaborating with local police agencies, and offering safety training to shop owners and their employees. Mall managers periodically have security drills in which the mall is locked down, simulating a real-life emergency.
Stores should follow suit. If you are a store owner, arrange security training that’s exclusive to your store. Ask mall security, a local police department, or hire someone from a security management consulting firm to help you develop a plan to protect your employees and shoppers in case of an emergency.
Hiring a lawyer
In many instances, victims or their survivors cannot sue the shooter because the shooter either takes his own life or is killed in a shootout with police. Therefore, victims or their survivors hire personal injury lawyers to file wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits against the mall management or the store in which a shooting took place. The lawsuits typically claim that the mall or store did not provide adequate security to keep shoppers safe.
While mall owners retain law firms to represent their shopping centers, as a store owner, you would do well to retain your own personal injury law firm. A personal injury lawyer can advise you on the legal repercussions of a shooting at your store. The law firm will also protect your rights as a business owner should someone want to hold you responsible for other types of personal injuries, such as a slip-and-fall accident inside your store.
If you want to operate a small business these days, especially in a spacious public venue such as a mall, you must realize that there is more to be concerned about than keeping track of your inventory. It’s now just as important for you to make sure you have a plan to keep your customers and employees safe in case the unexpected happens.
Writer LaGeris Underwood Bell hopes shop owners will recognize and accept their responsibility to plan preemptively for the protection of their staff and clientele, by seeking out qualified personal injury lawyers and retaining those in their community with a solid track record.