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Paramus Shopping Center Shooting: Can It Happen Here?

Investigators believe that Teaneck 20-year-old Richard Shoop had no designs on taking lives when he began shooting into the ceiling and other spots in the Garden State Plaza in Paramus late Monday. But how much comfort is that to shoppers in any mall, including the Ocean County Mall in Toms River?

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Operators of the shopping center on Hooper Avenue say, essentially, that the situation is in hand, and that we’ll have to trust them on it. Toms River police are supporting protection efforts here.

The verbatim statement attributed to Ocean County Mall management sent to Townsquare Media News at WOBM:

The safety and security of our shoppers, retail tenants and employees is our priority. To protect our local community and property, we do not discuss details of our security procedures. We will continue to work closely with federal, state and local authorities to take appropriate security measures that provide a safe environment at our mall.

Among the details yet to be determined are how Shoop managed to smuggle the weapon past security cameras and guards, or why he chose the venue.

But the gunfire here and at Los Angeles International, within days, illustrates the vulnerabilities that remain in mass-gathering areas, despite tremendous advances in technology and training.

The Plaza is operated by the Westfield group. The Indiana-based Simon Property Group operates the Ocean County Mall. The company website says it owns, in whole or in part, 325 shopping centers in the U.S. and Asia, with extended holdings in Europe through a partnership with a French real-estate firm.

With that kind of reach, it stands to reason that customer protection ranks right up there with customer service. It also stands to reason that to explain how they accomplish it is, for want of a better term, giving away the store.

Toms River police, meanwhile, have stepped up patrols in and around the Ocean County Mall, and are under orders to keep an eye on mass-gathering spots after they’ve clocked out and are headed home.

A lieutenant on duty today said that the Paramus incident is considered isolated in nature, but that they are aware of the possibilities that it opens.

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