LOS ANGELES — Despite a terrorist group video calling for attacks on shopping malls in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, there is no credible threat to malls in the Southland, officials said Feb. 23, but residents were encouraged as always to remain vigilant and be aware of their surroundings.
“We have to not be paranoid or over-anxious about this,” Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Downing told City News Service.
Downing, head of the LAPD’s counter-terrorism unit, said the video from a Somalia-based terror group appears to be a “motivational” type of message, perhaps in an attempt to encourage homegrown terror groups or individuals.
“It’s not like there’s any imminent attack,” he said.
Regardless, the LAPD has reached out to shopping mall operators to provide them with basic information and ensure security is in place.
“We’ve also trained in this area in terms of a mall attack,” he said.
Nicole Nishida of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also stressed there is “no known specific, credible threat to the Los Angeles area malls.”
“Our sheriff’s stations work collaboratively with our mall partners, and regularly train with them on active shooter exercises and other threats relating to mall security,” she said. “We remain vigilant when patrolling commercial retail space within sheriff’s jurisdiction, and urge the public to remain aware, and if they see something suspicious to contact local law enforcement.”
Westfield Corp., which operates malls in Culver City, Century City, Sherman Oaks, Canoga Park, Arcadia and Valencia, issued a statement saying it “will take every available step to keep our shopping centers safe for staff, retailers and customers.”
“Westfield Corporation’s policy is to not publicly disclose security procedures, however our heads of security in the U.S. and U.K. continue to coordinate their activities with police and government agencies,” the company statement said. “As usual, significant resources continue to be devoted to security arrangements in our shopping centers and they continue to operate as normal.”
Downing said residents, as always, should have their “attention cycle raised a little bit” and always be on the lookout for suspicious activity. The department has a special hotline for reporting possible terror threats at (877) 284-7328.
The terrorist video mentioned the 2013 attack at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and it made specific reference to the Mall of America in Minnesota.