Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lax security in city malls worries cops

Ineffectual security in city malls exposed during surprise checks

Vijay V Singh TNN

Mumbai: The Mumbai police’s audits in the recent past have revealed that private security at most malls in the city are ineffectual at detecting weapons even with metal detectors. This discovery, along with the deadly al-Shabaab attack in Nairobi, has prompted the police to conduct fresh audits of malls. 

    In the past few months, the police’s protection and security branch sent 220 “armed decoys” to various places to appraise their preparedness. Most decoys were sent to malls and multiplexes. In 70% of the cases, officers said, the decoys succeeded in
entering the premises with weapons.
    One such ‘dummy run’ was carried out at a popular mall in Andheri (West). A police officer concealed a revolver in his shoes and visited the place in plain clothes and managed to enter. 
 ‘Malls refuse to take security seriously’
Mumbai: During a security audit at a city mall, a police officer in plain clothes with a hidden weapon managed to enter despite the doorframe metal detector at the entrance alerting the mall guards “with specific signal” that the officer was carrying a weapon.  “But the private guard did not bother. I was frisked manually, but perfunctorily,” said the officer. “I faced no hurdles in entering. We later informed the mall’s security team about their lapses.” 

    The police conceded that many Mumbai malls are vulnerable terror targets. “We are checking their vulnerability with a fresh perspective after the Nairobi attack. We are also evaluating our response mechanism,” said additional commissioner of police (protection and security) Madhukar Pandey.
    Officers complained that despite their exhortations many malls refuse to take security more seriously. “Thousands visit malls on weekends, so we in
crease patrols there on those days. But the malls themselves take security lightly,” said an officer. “After the Nairobi attack, I hope their attitude will change.” 

    The police held a meeting on Sep
tember 12 with the security heads of malls and multiplexes where an open discussion was held, an orientation programme conducted and feedback collected. Most security heads, in response, requested the police to train their staff.  “We have given suggestions on frisking, CCTV positioning and checking vehicles. We expect them to follow our advice,” said DCP Chhering Dorje.
Security increased at synagogues after audits
The Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) recently conducted security drills—using ‘mock terrorists’—at 35 places belonging to the Jewish community to appraise their vulnerability. The exercise happened after the ATS issued a terror alert warning of possible attacks on Jewish places of worship by the Indian Mujahideen (IM). “At all 35 places, the mock terrorists, who were armed with fake weapons and bombs, got caught and were detained,” said a senior ATS officer.
    Another officer explained that following the arrest of IM principal Yasin Bhatkal the ATS had received “inputs” from security agencies in New Delhi. So, the ATS issued an alert and identified for security audits 35 places belonging to the Jewish community. Of these, 29 are in Mumbai—10 synagogues, five Chabad houses, four business and 10 educational establishments. The rest six, all synagogues, are in other parts of the state. “After the audit, we briefed their guards on how to identify suspicious people,” said an officer. “At most places, we have beefed up security. Policemen have been ordered to create makeshift posts on the premises of synagogues and stay on alert.”  
Mateen Hafeez 
 TIMES VIEW: Security at malls may be porous and it’s especially scary after the Nairobi incident. But finger-pointing won’t take us anywhere. Areas under the direct supervision of government agencies (like CST, which has already suffered a bloodbath) are not any safer than malls. Officials themselves have admitted in the past how basics, like the monitoring of CCTV footage, suffer because of logistical problems, the implication being a railway station in Mumbai is as porous as a mall. The lackadaisical attitude to security, whether it’s managed by private or government agencies, needs to change.

The Times of India, September 26, 2013

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