Brawls breaking out nationwide and in NJ — is it safe to go to the mall?
Video courtesy of Yusef Wright
There is growing concern about mall safety in the Garden State following several disturbing incidents over the past few weeks.
Ten people were hurt following a melee that began at the Jersey Gardens mall food court late Sunday.
Authorities evacuated the Elizabeth mall after what turned out to be false report of a gunshot. Police determined the sound shoppers heard was actually a chair crashing to the ground after it was thrown during the fight.
This incident follows a stabbing at the Monmouth Mall on Dec. 17.
A 15-year-old boy is accused of stabbing another teen following a verbal dispute that escalated into a fight.
And on Friday, video of a fight at the Newport Mall in Jersey City began spreading widely on social media.
According to Christopher Leusner, vice president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police and police vhief of Middle Township, local police are working closely with security forces at shopping malls across the state.
“In this day in age when terrorism is a real threat anywhere, we know it can happen here, we’re aware of that, so we’re communicating with our security counterparts at these locations on a regular basis,” he said.
Leusner said local law enforcement officials have been working with mall security personnel to make sure “that they have a good evacuation plans and notification procedures for patrons that are coming into their facilities.
“We really have to be working together and I believe we are here in New Jersey," he said.
He stressed “we are always encouraging these shopping malls to make sure they have properly staffed security forces, that they’re equipped properly, that they’re sharing information."
He said authorities will always try to deal with whatever situation occurs in a mall peacefully, but when there’s a more serious dangerous incident, law enforcement is ready for that too.
“Our police officers in New Jersey are trained in active shooter response. They’re not going to wait for a SWAT team, which can be a half an hour to 45 minutes. They get there quickly, but in lots of cases that’s too late,” he said.
“We have trained our police officers across the state to be able to an active shooter, they have the training and the equipment. Many police officers are carrying AR15s now," Leusner said.
An AR15 is a high-powered long-distance rifle that has become standard a standard weapon in many departments.
Leusner also said local police now train with their county and state counterparts so if there’s an emergency, “officers of numerous jurisdictions can show up. They can be operating from the same sheet of music and get into whatever location it may be.”
He said when it comes mall security, “it’s really everyone working together. It’s the public, it’s the police, it’s the private sector and security making sure we keep everyone safe and if there is an issue that we can deal with it.”
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