Malls MUST ensure our safety

Malls MUST ensure our safety
Shoppers this week watched in horror as a man was gunned down by another motorist in a Pretoria shopping centre’s parking lot.

The attack left many asking if shopping malls were safe.

This incident at Menlyn Maine is not an isolated one. It is part of many violent scenes that have been playing out for years, including cash heists and armed robberies that have caused pandemonium as shoppers scatter in terror as shots are fired.

The festive season is upon us. It is during this time of year that families and their young children set about to buy gifts for their loved ones.

It is the responsibility of shopping centre management to not only lure them in for the specials on merchandise but also run campaigns on safety and reassure consumers that their shopping experience will be a good one.

They need to stop shirking their responsibility by telling consumers, through plaques, that “they will not assume responsibility for any incident that happens inside the shopping mall”.

It is not enough that a handful of security guards are placed at the entrances.

What is more disconcerting is that while shopping centre managements put evacuation mechanisms in place, consumers do not immediately know where to go when disaster strikes. This is because none of the warnings are highlighted prominently so that they can easily find an escape route.

How does a family aid a slow, elderly person or a person in a wheelchair? How do these people reach evacuation doors when they are told not to use the lift in case of a fire, yet it is the only available platform for them to use to manoeuvre around the mall?

In an article published almost 17 years ago, Dr Bennie Coetzer, the managing director of Thales Advanced Engineering responsible for electronic surveillance systems, put it ever so eloquently when he said people do not shop where they do not feel safe.

Security, safety and crime prevention are therefore critical elements for property developers and management in the design, construction and administration of modern shopping centres.

Coetzer said tenants and visitors at shopping centres needed to see that security and crime prevention were a priority for management.

Shopping centre owners need to start pulling their socks up. As consumers, we deserve better.