Woodbridge, NJ shooting incident serves as a safety reminder

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What was supposed to be a nice night out at the mall for hundreds of eager shoppers unfortunately turned ugly in a matter of seconds last night at New Jersey’s third-largest shopping mall. At Woodbridge Center, a man suspected of shoplifting was shot and killed by police after taking a woman hostage. According to news reports and law enforcement officials, after being confronted by mall security about an alleged shoplifting incident, the suspect panicked and grabbed a female shopper and threatened her with a knife.  After several repeated warnings to drop the knife, the officer fatally shot the suspect.

As you might suspect, the incident caused panic and confusion among everyone involved. Instantly I was reminded about the importance of retailers’ safety protocols and active shooter guidelines.  During any emergency, a retailer’s top concern is the safety of their employees, customers and even the suspected shoplifters. For law enforcement officials, the safety of everyone involved is also a top priority.

The decision to confront someone committing a crime is never taken lightly, and we appreciate the difficult work of law enforcement professionals. When an officer feels their life is in danger, they may use deadly force.

Retail criminals know that if they are apprehended they face arrest, prosecution, bail and even jail. Oftentimes, they will stop at nothing keep from getting caught. Unfortunately, some of these crimes are committed through acts of violence and can endanger the lives of others.

Last night’s incident should serve as a reminder to retail associates and loss prevention professionals that it pays to be prepared. Retailers should make sure their staff is adequately trained and knowledgeable of what to do in these instances. Most importantly, retailers should take extra time to make sure their loss prevention staff are aware of the company policy regarding shoplifting, as many companies these days actually enforce a ”hand-off” approach so as to lessen the danger potential for other shoppers, store employees and even the suspected shoplifter.

NRF’s active shooter guidelines are a great resource for retailers and their staff when preparing their emergency and crisis management plans. Email Angelica Rodriguez at rodrigueza@nrf.com to receive a copy of the guidelines.

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