With mere hours to go before the official premier of the new Star Wars movie, it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype. You see the merchandise everywhere and so many companies are adding a touch of Star Wars to their marketing messages. Here in Phoenix, even in the Arizona Department of Transportation has embraced The Force by displaying Star Wars-themed safety messages on digital freeway signage. While I give them points for creativity, the momentum and excitement of this cultural “event” has actually brought some serious conversations to the surface. News stations all across the country are talking about security in light of the huge crowds that will show up at theaters everywhere to watch the new Star Wars installment.
And good for them!
After all, theaters are certainly soft targets. Given the heightened sensitivity regarding soft targets after the San Bernardino shooting, it makes sense to think about what is being done to help secure the thousands of movie theaters across the country. There’s no doubt that many theaters will hire off-duty police to assist with site security and crowd control, but what is the longer-term fix? What about theaters contained in shopping malls where mostly unarmed security guards patrol each day? Police can’t be everywhere all the time, so what are on-site private security officers supposed to do when trouble arises?
We’re not talking about active shooters, either. We’re talking about the mob mentality that can take charge when lots of people gather in one space. If the first line of defense isn’t prepared or equipped to deter trouble from brewing, these security officers are quickly rendered ineffective when trouble starts. Suddenly, they are in a position where they have nothing to defend themselves or others as tensions rise, and they have to wait for law enforcement to respond as things escalate. It can spark from something as simple as a person cutting in line. We see that kind of mob behavior on Black Friday every year and it ultimately results in people getting hurt (or in some cases, killed).
While the new Star Wars movie is set to make a big box office splash, it not only provides great entertainment value for those of us who love the franchise, but also reminds the companies that manage mall properties and shopping centers that house movie theaters to re-think what an effective security force looks like when protecting a highly-populated soft target. Even if those companies ride the Star Wars wave and field a bunch of Stormtroopers with Pro V2s, it’ll let people know that security isn’t a soft issue.