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MOA shoppers, employees don’t appear worried

  • Article by: Randy Furst
  • Star Tribune
  • September 25, 2013 - 9:35 PM

The Mall of America has increased security in the aftermath of the deadly attack at an upscale mall in Kenya, but a mall spokesman declined to say whether there had been a specific threat.

Don Jasper, vice president of public relations, said that “anecdotally” he was unaware of any drop in visitors since the attack. Although the mall keeps daily figures, he declined to divulge them. The mall seemed to have at least hundreds of people shopping there on Wednesday afternoon.

Jasper said the mall had “closely” monitored developments in Kenya and “we always take appropriate actions whenever something happens either locally or worldwide.”

Mall officials declined to say how many security people were on duty. A reporter spotted seven uniformed guards during a walk-through of the corridors on the four floors, plus the basement transit station and an entrance area for trucks, buses and other vehicles known by mall security as “Checkpoint Charlie.”

A member of the mall security department’s Risk Assessment and Mitigation (RAM) unit stopped to check the credentials of a reporter near Checkpoint Charlie.

Jasper said the RAM unit, which is made up of plainclothes guards, watches for behaviors at the mall that “are out of place and that could be anyone with a bad intention.” The observation technique, he said, originated with the Israeli defense forces.

Jasper would not allow a reporter to interview shoppers on mall property, but visitors, sitting on light-rail trains coming to and from the mall, seemed to be largely unconcerned that what happened in Kenya might occur at the Bloomington site.

“You can’t walk around, looking for danger around every corner and expect something horrible to happen,” said Jade Wollin, 18.

“I’m not afraid,” said Kenya Womack, 21, a college student who works at Taco Bell at the mall. “We’ve got security and a lot of cameras.”

She also noted that the mall conducts regular drills for employees on what to do in case of an emergency.

Others interviewed were also not worried, but for another reason.

“What happened in Kenya?” asked Stephen Cross, 49, who was leaving the mall.

“Do you mind sharing what happened?” said Haley Ashbrook, 19, a college student and mall clothing-store clerk who said she’d been working extra hours lately. “I don’t have a TV,” she said.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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