After last summer’s Eaton Centre shooting, Toronto’s landmark Yorkdale Mall was the centre of another homicide this past Easter weekend. This is the second gun-related occurrence in a Toronto mall in past year.
The incident comes as the Yorkdale mall, Toronto’s largest, recently underwent a $60 million expansion and renovation.
And part of the update does take security into the design considerations, according to an association representing shopping malls in over 90 countries.
“I mean as far as design, you know you want a well-lit centre especially if you have parking areas and things like that,” said Malachy Kavanagh, a senior staff vice president of the International Council of Shopping Centers. “There aren’t a lot of hidden corners or alleys and things like that. But they are making their security teams seen.”
According to Kavanagh, most malls have moved their security out to the common areas of the centres so people see that they do have a large security presence.
“It’s just a way to deter criminals, to stop them from doing something, because they would say ‘Oh wow, I`ll be filmed, people are going to see my face’,” he said in an interview from his New York City office.
And while Kavanagh is confident the shooting won’t deter people from shopping at Yorkdale, despite the high profile of the attack, local city councillor Josh Colle is concerned about what the gun play means for the city as a whole.
Colle represents Ward 15 Eglinton-Lawrence, which includes the mall. He insists that it is still a safe neighbourhood, despite what happened.
“It’s going to impact the mall in some shape or form, because people would get nervous about that. I still think it’s a safe place to be in the city,” Colle said. “But our city in general is now facing these very random, very senseless incidents and it should be a wake up call across the city and it’s not isolated in the ‘quote unquote’ bad neighbourhoods.”
The councillor was satisfied with the way the Yorkdale administration worked hard to make sure everyone is safe.
Yorkdale’s website says they employ 51 security employees.
“Yorkdale has a very extensive onsite security detail, and very active police presence,” Colle said. “The neighbourhoods around Yorkdale as you know, myself and the Toronto police 32 division, are taking lots of steps to address the safety and security measures for the neighbourhoods around it.”
Neil Sutton, the editor of Canadian Security Magazine, covers industrial security issues facing corporations, including shopping malls. He said that it could be difficult to plan for these types of situations.
“No matter how prepared an organization is, be it a retail environment or otherwise, there is no way to completely guard against an unforeseen incident like a shooting,” Sutton said. “It’s how that organization reacts and deals with the consequences that lets you know how solid their security or emergency planning is.”
On Sunday March 31, the mall did release statements letting the public know what they knew about the incident.
That’s a good sign, according to Sutton.
“Malls and retailers are getting better about using security surveillance equipment effectively and sharing information on crime — a lot of which is related to shoplifting incidents. In a lot of cases, they’re able to share video evidence quickly and effectively with police,” he said.
After the fatal shooting that killed a gang member, and sent another man to hospital on Saturday March 30, Yorkdale Shopping Centre released a statement at 1 a.m. Sunday morning, March 31, stating that they “were shocked and saddened with the incident that occurred outside Yorkdale in the parking lot on Saturday evening.” It went on to say they are working fully and cooperatively with the Toronto Police.
While two incidents in Toronto had some observers wondering where they could shop safely, the shopping centre lobby group urges Toronto-area customers to put things in perspective, although Kavanagh couldn’t say how many gun incidents happen every year in malls.
“There is no one that tracks how many violent incidents you have, ” he said. However, “a good mall like Yorkdale attracts millions of people a month, so you know you take that and extrapolate it down throughout the year and it probably has 15-20 million people come through the centre and the vast majority do without incident, without any violence or crime so when taken in context of how many people use the center, it’s a very small number.”
Such a tragedy. Apart from implementing extremely tight security at mall entrances (which won’t happen) I think it’s going to be tough to eliminate this type of situation entirely.