Is mall terror threat a concern for Tampa Bay?

Clearwater, Florida -- Over the weekend, a frightening, threatening video was released by Al Shabaab - the Somalian, Muslim extremist group, urging an attack on the Mall of America and other Western shopping centers.

It's the same group that carried out an attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya less than two years ago leaving more than 60 people dead.

So, how concerned do we need to be about this threat here in the Tampa Bay area, and what measures are being taken that can protect all of us in the face of such an ominous threat?

The terrorist threat against the Mall of America is obviously a concern to just about anyone who visits any mall in America. Shopping centers in the Bay area are no exception.

"You know, we want to feel like we're not being threatened, and we should not be threatened," said Cheryl Miller, a shopper at Countryside Mall in Clearwater.

"I believe that it may be any day," said another worried shopper who declined to be identified.

Just how concerned do we really need to be?

"Generally speaking, soft targets are potential venues for these types of attacks," said Craig Gundry, vice-president of Largo-based Critical Intervention Services, which provides security consulting worldwide.

Gundry says shoppers in the Bay area probably don't need to change their routines.

"I'm not aware of any current threat-related conditions here in Florida that would warrant that level of concern," said Gundry.

In a statement from Westfield, the region's largest mall operator, the company says it does not discuss particulars when it comes to security, but that they are coordinating "their activities with police and government agencies."

At International Plaza mall, operated by Taubman Centers, a jewelry store heist in late December sent shoppers scrambling. It was an unknown threat at the time.

Gundry says that was an opportunity for officials to review their readiness and response.

"What went right, what went wrong, and hopefully, some kind of additional measures then come out of it," said Gundry.

In the absence of a specific threat, experts suggest keeping your eyes open for any suspicious activity or behavior. Also, don't be afraid to report any unattended objects. Gundry says you should also have a plan to get out fast at the first sign of trouble. Those who find the exits quickly, he says, are far more likely to survive an attack.


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