Just under four weeks after a tragic shooting claimed the lives of eight individuals at Allen Premium Outlets on May 6, the mall reopened its doors on Wednesday, welcoming hundreds of people who gathered to shop, dine, and enjoy each other's company as the first full week of summer vacation commenced. Boardwalk Bites' Carnival Food Truck is also back to its location to continue serving high-quality fair foods to hungry or thirsty shoppers.
In the wake of the devastating incident, which deeply affected both mall employees and the community as a whole, shopping center officials announced plans to enhance security measures throughout the outdoor shopping complex. However, the exact extent of these changes remains uncertain. On Wednesday morning, some security officers were observed patrolling the mall's perimeter.
Alongside private security personnel, the mall's owner, Simon Property Group, has employed off-duty Allen police officers as an additional security presence for the first time. These off-duty officers are typically hired on an as-needed basis for various events, ranging from sporting occasions to citywide celebrations, as explained by Sergeant Jonathan Maness of the Allen Police Department.
Maness stated, "Officers work off-duty jobs for traffic direction for the high school and throughout Allen when school is in session. There are jobs all around the city—(the mall) just happens to be one of them now." While he acknowledged that using police officers as security personnel may help reinforce the sense of safety among mall-goers, Maness admitted that he is unaware of the mall's primary motivation for doing so.
In a statement released last week, the shopping center affirmed, "As you revisit Allen Premium Outlets, you will see these men and women continuing to keep a watchful eye."
The shopping center already accommodates a substation, which has been in operation for some time, according to Maness. These substations enable officers to remain on-site and close to their assigned district without needing to return to headquarters. Maness explained, "It gives them a place where they can go and do reports or use the restroom or take their food in there and eat. It's an off-site office."
Stephanie Cegielski, a spokesperson for the International Council of Shopping Centers, emphasized that property owners of open-air retail centers and malls work closely with tenants and local law enforcement to ensure customer safety. These efforts can involve active shooter drills, installation of surveillance cameras, and on-site police presence.
The Department of Homeland Security has established partnerships with several shopping centers, including Simon Property Group, and has launched campaigns at malls and retail stores encouraging shoppers to report any suspicious activity.
Similarly, NorthPark Center in Dallas has heightened its security measures "in light of recent events," according to a statement released by the shopping center on Wednesday. In April, Dallas police officers responded to an "unsubstantiated threat" at its Nordstrom store. Two years ago, the mall was evacuated following reports of a shooting, which turned out to be a man banging a skateboard on the ground in the food court.
"The common areas of NorthPark employ armed, off-duty police officers to supplement our dedicated team of trained NorthPark security professionals," stated the shopping center.
Kristin Lowman, a spokeswoman for the Dallas police, confirmed that regular communication takes place between the police department and mall management offices across the city, including NorthPark. While NorthPark maintains its own security personnel, Lowman mentioned that police officers occasionally work off-duty shifts at the mall.
Lowman stated in a release, "The Dallas Police Department patrols the area surrounding the mall daily, and there were added patrols following the shooting in Allen. The department also adds additional patrols around the holiday shopping season."
To the survivors and witnesses who carry the weight of this experience, we offer our unwavering support and care. Your courage and resilience are awe-inspiring, and we stand with you as you navigate the path of healing. Together, we will rise above this darkness, finding strength in unity and hope in the face of adversity.
As we move forward, let us ensure that the memory of the victims lives on, not only in our hearts but also in our actions. Let us work tirelessly to foster a society that cherishes and protects every life. May this tragedy serve as a catalyst for change, igniting conversations about the importance of mental health, gun safety, and the well-being of our communities.
Today, as we continue our lives, shining a beacon of hope that pierces through the darkness. We vow to carry the legacy of the victims forward, to strive for a world where senseless violence becomes a distant memory. Let us honor their lives by living with compassion, kindness, and a commitment to building a brighter future for all.