After the deadly attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi on September 21 by Somali militant group al-Shabab, an unit of al-Qaeda, the Mumbai police have issued a circular to the managements of all the 37 malls in the city asking them to beef up security in their establishments. dna decided to do its own security audit of malls in the metropolis keeping the police in the loop.
dna city editor S Balakrishnan and crime reporters Little Yadav and Dayanand Kamath visited eight malls to check out the ground situation.
While Balakrishnan took his licensed .32 Webley revolver along, Yadav carried a large Spanish knife, a blade and a cigarette lighter. The malls covered by Balakrishnan, who was accompanied by Yadav, included The Hub (Jogeshwari East), Inorbit, HyperCity and Shoppers Stop (Malad). Yadav, accompanied by Kamath, also visited Neptune Mall (Bhandup), R City Mall (Ghatkopar), K Star Mall (Chembur) and Phoenix Marketcity (Kurla). They visited the malls on Wednesday and Thursday when there were several shoppers inside the malls.
Except at Inorbit in Malad, it was very easy to get the weapons inside the malls. At The Hub on Thursday afternoon, the security check was very casual. No one was there to monitor the metal detector. After passing through it, a uniformed security man used a hand-held metal detector to check the visitors before letting them in. Similar was the experience at Shoppers Stop and HyperCity which are next to Inorbit mall.
At Shoppers Stop, a Rs100 note was deliberately made to stick out of Balakrishnan’s shirt pocket and the attention of the security man, who was “frisking” visitors, was suitably distracted. He pointed out to the currency note even as he went through the motions of running the portable metal detector on the body.
However, at Inorbit, the story was pleasantly different. There too an attempt was made to distract the attention of the guard with a Rs100 note.
As the door frame metal detector blinked unsually because of the revolver, the guard, who was doing the frisking, noticed that something was amiss and he asked Balakrishnan to take out the stuff. It was the revolver. After checking the weapon and the police licence, he called his superiors, who included a former lieutenant of the Indian Army. They were then told about dna’s security audit.
They welcomed the move and informed us that they have upscaled their security set-up in a big way.
However, there was no notice stating what certain objects are not allowed to be brought inside the mall.
Also, only one (Inorbit) out of the eight malls had a bag scanner.
Yadav carried the knife, blade and lighter in her handbag, which was not even checked in the malls which she visited with Kamath Nepture, R City, K Star and Phoenix. With such security measures in place, it would be easy for any terror group to smuggle in weapons inside malls, hold shoppers hostage and create mayhem. The police are not responsible for security inside the malls. A senior police official said the mall managements must be made accountable for security within their premises. “In fact, dna should be commended for taking the initiative in this regard,” an assistant commissioner of police observed.
Most of these malls only have metal detectors and hand-held metal scanning devices. Also, in the parking lots, cars are checked only perfunctorily. Anyone can enter the compound or the parking bays with any weapon or explosives. These malls are easily sitting ducks.