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What can go wrong in a shopping centre?

What can go wrong in a shopping centre?

The United Kingdom’s biggest shopping centres attract millions of visitors each year – with the larger centres getting up to a million visitors in a week! With so many of us visiting shopping centres, there is of course that potential for something to go wrong, and with it a number of risks are presented. It is therefore imperative that shopping centre management teams, take the necessary steps to ensure their centre is a safe and secure environment for all users. The best way to guard against such risks is to work with an established shopping centre security specialist, that has dedicated shopping centre security officers, ready to handle any situation that may arise in a shopping centre.

Security in shopping centres    

ESG Security recognise that security at shopping centres is absolutely not the same as it is in a retail store environment, there are wholly different challenges to be faced. For example, security officers at shopping centres, are not there to simply provide security like they would be at a retail store. Instead our officers carry out a wide variety of property management tasks, to effectively support the shopping centre’s management team.

In many shopping centres the overall role of the centres security service continues to grow, with a wider focus on protective security advice, and mitigation efforts. ESG Security’s shopping centre security officers, work closely with the Operation Managers at ESG Security, and the client’s management team to ensure targets are achieved and the security service provision is continually reviewed. Below we have outlined the potential for incidents at shopping centres, and therefore how security teams can help to keep it safe.

Terrorism concerns

Shopping centres are at particular risk of terrorist plots. In recent months following a spate of terrorist incidents, the UK threat level was upgraded to: SEVERE. Whilst there’s been no major terrorist attacks at any shopping centre in Britain, there was an attack at the Westgate Shopping Centre, in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2013. Following the attack, ministers on the Home Affairs select committee visited Nairobi, and as a result concluded the following report: “The devastation caused by the acts of terrorism that day highlight the need for vigilance on the part of the public and private enterprise. Terrorists can strike anywhere and previous terrorist plans in the UK have focused on shopping centres (including planned attacks on Bluewater and The Trafford Centre). The National Counter Terrorism Security Office has produced Counter Terrorism Protective Security Advice for Shopping Centres.”

ESG Security’s officers are trained in identifying suspicious behaviour, and on how to react before a threat is realised. Having robust security measures i.e. a security team, reassures members of the public, that the shopping centre is taking security seriously.

Lost children

A lost child in a shopping centre is very different to a terrorist attack. However if you’re the lost child, alone and scared, or a parent who cannot find their child and is worried that they may have been abducted, then this is in an awful feeling. It is one of the worst situations parents can be in, turning around in a busy, crowded shopping centre to find that their child is not in sight. While most of the time the child will be a short distance away, there is always the potential for something more sinister such as abduction. A high profile and visible security presence in a shopping centre, provides reassurance for parents with their children. Some shopping centres also operate a Child Safe Zone schemes, this means that both parents and children know immediately who to go to in the case of a lost child. Such a scheme is also valuable for older children and vulnerable adults.


ESG Security takes responsibility for ensuring our security staff abide by health and safety regulations at shopping centres, and understand the precautions that need to be taken when dealing with any fire hazard incidents. Our officers are trained and skilled in fire alarm testing, evacuation procedures, fire application use, and firefighting. If a fire occurs within a shopping centre, our officers will ensure everyone is evacuated in a calm and collective manner. Our officers will also alert the emergency services for the safety of the public.


There has been a dramatic increase in the number of crimes reported to the police, by individual units in shopping centres, during the last few years. Whilst shopping centre security officers aren’t deployed to an individual unit, their presence around the centre as a whole is a deterrent for would be thieves.


A riot in a shopping centre seems an unlikely occurrence. However this is precisely what we saw in the riots of 2011, with widespread theft from shops and businesses, across several cities in England. As well as theft there was also damage to property and even arson. ESG Security provide specifically trained security officers, who know how to act in the event of a riot. Our officers can help greatly with the protection of shopping centre users and the building.

Night time duties

Security officers play an important role in securing shopping centres at night. This includes letting deliveries in to the centre, internal patrols throughout the night, monitoring CCTV, preventing theft, and being on hand in the event an alarm is activated. Shopping centres which are protected by ESG Security, are fitted with a security alarm that is linked to the on-site security officer for an immediate response. Our officers are trained in understanding what procedures to take place in the event of an alarm activation. ESG Security works closely with the emergency services to protect the safety of the public.