In what could be a first anywhere in the world, the Mumbai police plan to grade malls across the city by their security-preparedness.
As they receive large crowds, malls have always been considered potential terror targets. Now, with the attack on the Westgate Centre Mall in Nairobi by militants loyal to Somalia’s al Shabaab group, the police want to expedite their plans. “The attack… is an unfortunate example of how malls are soft targets. They have multiple entry and exit points and are crowded throughout the day. This makes securing them a mammoth task. Grading them will keep their owners on their toes,” a senior police officer told The Hindu.
There are roughly 24 mega-malls in Mumbai. They will be graded from A to F, with category A denoting the best. If the grade is low, the owner will be warned. Consistent breaches in security will result in revocation of licence. “This is the first time a government agency is doing such a rating. If a mall is graded poorly, it may lose its patrons. The owner could also lose his licence. So we expect that the desire to meet security requirements will be high,” said a source in the Mumbai police.
The police will use 25 parameters for grading. These include security at entry and exit points, CCTV coverage, evacuation plans, employee verification, the deployment of a licensed security agency, the ability of police decoys to breach security and the number of mock drills done.
Surprise checks by the police have thrown up shocking results. This year, 145 police decoys were sent to breach security in malls. Of these, 89 managed to enter the premises with explosives or weapons. “Though almost all the malls in the city have metal detectors and frisking mechanisms in place, our success rate in breaching their security has been more than 75 per cent. The figures are shocking. We have time and again written to the malls to upgrade their security but they have failed to do so,” said a police source.
“We are still in the process of finalising the details. We will soon take the decision on the grade signage — when and where they should be put up. This exercise is in the public interest and we want it to reach the public,” Additional Police Commissioner Madhukar Pandey said.