Some area shopping malls said Monday that they are committed to keeping the public and their employees safe. This as homeland security officials in Louisiana are in communication with federal law enforcement following the release of a video by an Al-Qaeda linked group, Al-Shabaab. In the video, Muslims are urged to attack U.S. shopping malls.
"We get joint intelligence both from the Department of Homeland Security, and FBI which gives us that kind of information when there is information that affects any state," said Kevin Davis, Director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
In the video, a masked man specifically mentions the mammoth Mall of America in Minnesota.
"Generally speaking when a group like this makes this big announcement they want to scare people, maybe they want to inspire somebody to do something," said Prof. Chris Fettweis of Tulane, an expert in international security and U.S. Foreign Policy.
Davis said when the state homeland security department is alerted by the feds of such threats , local law enforcement is immediately informed.
"We're not aware of any information that would be credible, to any mall, or shopping center here in the state of Louisiana," said Davis.
Al-Shabaab was responsible for the deadly 2013 shopping mall in Kenya which killed more than 50 people.
"If Al-Shabaab was going to attack a U.S. Mall they wouldn't announce it, they would just do it," said Fettweis.
He said Americans must not give in to fear.
"Terrorists want to terrorize people and they win if you get scared and you don't go to the small and buy shirts because you're afraid of Al-Shabaab then they win. If you interpret it as what they are, a bunch of thugs who wish they could attack a U.S. Mall then they're not going to attain their goals," Fettweis stated.
Oakwood Mall issued a statement in response to the media requests relating to the video.
"The safety and well-being of every guest and employee who enters our mall are our top priorities – every day. We are grateful our local and national law enforcement take this matter seriously, as do we. We have a customized public safety program that includes a large number of measures, most of which are not visible to the general public. Our commitment to public safety also includes the need to assess all situations and make changes where we believe they are needed to enhance our public safety efforts. We do not discuss the specifics of our public safety program because that would compromise our efforts. What's most important to us is our guests and employees know their safety and well-being are paramount to us," the statement provided by Oakwood Marketing Manager, Chrislyn Miller.
Esplanade Mall's media contact did not comment on that mall specifically but instead referred us to the following statement from the International Council of Shopping Centers:
"The shopping center industry takes seriously its responsibility to provide a safe and comfortable environment in which to shop. Since 9/11, the shopping center industry has worked diligently with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials on training and preparedness. While some security measures deployed at shopping centers such as the use of bollards, uniformed patrols by law enforcement officers, and surveillance camera systems will be evident to consumers, many more protective measures will not. When it comes to protecting and securing a shopping center, many factors are taken into consideration and security plans and procedures are customized to each center's unique characteristics. In short, there is no-one-size fits all approach taken when it comes to developing and deploying a security program. Individual centers continually update and refine their security plans in concert with their law enforcement partners as part of their ongoing effort to be vigilant. The shopping center industry will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure that shopping centers are safe and comfortable environments in which to shop. Consumers can be assured that their safety and the safety of shopping center employees are the industry's number one priority," the ICSC statement read.
The spokeswoman for Lakeside Mall, nor the security company the mall employs would comment for this story.
Feittweis said the best thing shoppers can do is continue to shop.
"Homeland Security has to take it seriously, the FBI has to take it seriously, but we don't have to take its seriously," said Fettweis.