Radio Free Montone: Mall Terror

By John Montone, 1010 WINS

Can al-Shabab get shopaholics to drop…the habit?  I doubt it, but….

The video threat by a masked terrorist whose group of killers attacked a shopping center in Kenya two years ago, hit home in our area.  Paramus is the unofficial shopping mall center of the universe and some people who live near the massive malls on Routes 4 and 17 feel like they might have a bull’s eye on them.  One gentleman told me that ever since 9/11 he’s worried about a terror attack at a mall.  Worried about his children and grandchildren who frequently shop at them. “ It’s just a hubbub of people coming and going and it just seems that if you’re one of the bad guys it’s an easy thing to do,” he said.

Another fellow called it, “a terrifying situation,” and said he would tell his family to stay away from shopping centers for a while.  And a woman who admitted she likes to shop said she is “upset…that you have to be afraid,” but she will also steer clear of these centers for the time being.

One of the men I talked to for my story on 1010 WINS poked fun at mall security in their “cowboy hats,” and a young man who said he refused to live in fear and would continue to visit the malls, laughed when I asked him about security.

Now to be fair, Congressman Peter King of Long Island, who never waves off a terror threat as unfounded, did say that since the attack in Kenya, American malls have increased their security.

I wonder.

It has been less than a year and a half since a suicidal young man walked into and through the Garden State Plaza blasting rounds from a rifle.  He didn’t shoot anyone, but no one shot him either.  He was able to make it to an area under construction and kill himself.  The response from local, county and state law enforcement personnel was quick and massive and within hours they found the shooter’s body.  But Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli admitted to me that that this could have been a “mass murder.”

The people who run shopping malls are aware that the centers are potential terror targets.  If for no other reason than an attack would be bad for business, they surely take security seriously.  But based on the comments I heard from people Monday morning, the public isn’t buying it.  And on my infrequent mall outings, I can’t say they are swarming with security.  Which doesn’t mean they’re not.  But how about a show of force?  There is a military presence in Penn Station.  The TSA operates at airports.  Malls need a more visible security presence.

Otherwise, jittery shoppers will keep making jokes about mall cops in “cowboy hats.”

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