The day after Thanksgiving, known as “Black Friday” ushered in the official 2013 holiday shopping season, and violent incidents in recent years at department stores and shopping malls, including mass shootings have underscored the need for increased security and public safety awareness.
Large store chains including Wal-Mart and Target implemented new strategies this year, such as limiting the amount of shoppers in one store at one time and music to soothe bargain hunters and adding extra guards for security presence.
Mobs of shoppers got a head start on Thursday, and several incidents in which shoppers managed to push past extra security staff and gates designed to break up the masses were reported.
The consensus seems to be that Black Friday 2013 was less violent than previous years, with no deaths reported. There were sporadic shootings, stabbings and robberies reported nationwide.
ln Romeoville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, police shot a suspected shoplifter in the shoulder late Thursday night after the car he was driving dragged a police officer through a Kohl’s department store parking lot.
A police officer was injured while breaking up a fight outside a California Walmart, a shopper was shot in the leg over a flat screen TV in Las Vegas and a Walmart north of New York City was evacuated as the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush sparked incidents of violence across the nation, according to police and widely reported media coverage.
The Los Angeles Times reported two serious incidents at a Georgia Walmart and a Texas Sears department store. At a Wal-Mart in Moultrie, Georgia, rowdy shoppers toppled each other while grabbing at discounted smartphones.
Police in Rialto, California, outside of Los Angeles, say a police officer suffered a fractured hand and finger after responding to an assault in the parking lot of a Walmart on Thursday.
When Rialto police tried to stop a fight between a shopper and a man who jumped out of a car in the Walmart parking lot, a second suspect emerged from the vehicle and the two began fighting the officers, according to police.
In New Jersey, police arrested and ticketed a woman for spitting at another woman and hitting her child instead. A shopper video-taped a wild brawl at a Wal-Mart store in Elkin, North Carolina.
The record-breaking Superstorm Sandy, which affected eight Northeastern U.S. states on October 30, 2012, resulted in lower sales and less violent incidents on Black Friday 2012.
In 2011, Black Friday holiday shoppers packed local shopping malls and department stores across the U.S., and violent incidents erupted at shopping venues across the country. A bomb threat in Arizona and shootings at a shopping mall in Fayetteville, North Carolina and a Walmart in San Leandro, California were among the most serious incidents reported. Less serious incidents included in Los Angeles, where paramedics treated 10 people at a Walmart for pepper spray exposure and police in New York and Pennsylvania reportedly broke up brawls at shopping venues.
Approximately eighty-five percent of the nation’s infrastructure is privately owned public space. Therefore, without government mandates, public safety is largely the responsibility of individual stores or mall management.
A little known fact regarding security measures at shopping malls following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is that shopping mall’s management reached out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for assistance in target hardening.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano partnered with shopping malls and retailers — including Walmart for the “See Something, Say Something” public awareness campaign.
The U.S. government’s role in public safety at shopping venues remains limited to financial incentives, such as tax breaks to improve safety and security measures.