CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – You may have seen quite a few police cars outside the Walden Galleria Tuesday morning, but there was no reason to worry. Cheektowaga Police were joining mall security and mall customers for the Galleria’s quarterly lockdown drill.
“We prepare for the worst and hope we never need it,” said Assistant Cheektowaga Police Chief Jim Speyer.
This drill was scheduled well in advance, before the recent shootings at malls in Washington State and Texas and the stabbings at a Minnesota mall.
Those incidents have shined the spotlight on how vulnerable malls can be to attacks. They are known as ‘soft targets’.
“Soft target means that there aren’t a whole lot of security measures that anyone from the public needs to go through,” Speyer explained. “There’s no layers of security before you can get into the event, the venue.”
Because of that, the public has to be extra vigilant and take the “see something, say something” mantra to heart.
First responders also have to learn from past attacks on soft targets, like the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, as they put together plans to deal with a worst case scenario locally.
“One of the results of the Aurora shooting was the officers, the emergency medical people, realized they needed to have a better line of communication. And now we train right with our emergency medical people,” Speyer pointed out.
Tuesday’s training gave police and mall security a chance to put a new color code signal system to the test in the mall. “We don’t like to talk too much about our tactics but basically it’s a communication through a series of colored placards indicating whether everybody in the store is okay or whether they need help,” Speyer said.
That system lets responding officers quickly assess which stores they need to get to first. “In other words, it’s a priority, almost like a triage,” Speyer explained.
The color code signal system was implemented at the Walden Galleria after police and mall security collaborated for another drill last year.