Malls seem like tightly-controlled and safe spaces for shopping, entertainment and dining. Yet they actually present great problems for those who are in charge of the safety and security of the retailers and customers.
Shopping malls have lots of features that make them attractive to criminals. There are plenty of nice things in the stores, and people walking around with money. There are usually places for groups of teenagers to hang out. There are also parking lots full of cars. Security and safety in malls depends on proper management of the crowd, its movement around the mall, its transportation to and away from the mall, and the way it spends its time in the mall.
It would be fairly easy to keep malls safe if there was a way to tell who is coming to the mall to make trouble, and to keep those people out. However, this is quite difficult. So security in malls depends on successful separation between shoppers or potential shoppers, and non-shoppers who are around for crime, shoplifting, pickpocket, or just hanging around. Certain design qualities of malls can encourage or discourage the non-shoppers, such as lighting, ceiling height, color scheme, presence of public transportation, parking facilities and many others.
- Avoid non-shopper oriented content, such as arcade games and lottery ticket booths. Such businesses encourage loitering and increase disorder in the mall, thus opening the path for crime.
- Family-oriented stores should be more numerous than teenage- and youth-oriented stores (such as music stores, trendy clothing shops, cinemas, and so on). Malls that are family and child friendly are more likely to attract a quiet crowd, such as families, or at least tend to balance out the presence of teenagers.
- Put the stores that appeal to youth close to entrances and food courts. This can help concentrate teenagers to one part of the mall, while stores appealing to older shoppers can be located in the other side of the mall.
- Narrow and dead end corridors should be avoided. Such corridors are perfect spots for robberies and they get little surveillance.
- All stores should be visible from a central pedestrian area, and all store entrances should be from the same pedestrian area. Stores that have entrances from side corridors are more likely to be robbed or broken into because people in the central area are unlikely to see what is going on. Similarly, with stores looking at one central pedestrian area, there is closer monitoring of people moving around, in and out of the store.
- Minimize the number of entrances. Lower the number of entrances, easier it is to control who actually comes in or leaves the mall.
- Parking lots should be well lighted and well marked, in order to reduce fear in customers, and to reduce the opportunity for the offenders.