A drive around Nairobi and other major cities in Kenya reveals a new shopping trend; shopping malls. Kenya’s shopping experience has certainly come of age. Shopping malls are now the in-thing as people prefer places where they can do all their shopping activities under one roof. Shopping malls consist of a variety of shops, supermarkets, cafes, restaurants and bars. You will also find banks, ATM services, post offices and foreign exchange bureaus all located within a shopping mall. This ensures that the moment you get into a mall, you can find most of what you need without having to move from one shopping complex to the next.

Some of the most popular shopping malls in Nairobi include:

  • Sarit Centre
  • The Mall
  • Yaya Centre
  • Village Market
  • Nakumatt Ukay
  • The Junction Mall
  • Mountain Mall
  • Thika Road Mall
  • Capital Centre

Every week, families flock to these places and spend many hours shopping or taking a stroll. Children are not left out either as malls have activities to keep these youngsters busy. Ample parking spaces add to the convenience that shopping at the city centre lacks. Away from the shopping convenience that malls are associated with, security is a major concern.

The soft underbelly of shopping mall security was brought to the fore when gunmen stormed the Westgate Shopping Mall in Westlands area leaving over 60 people dead and 175 wounded. This action caught everyone unawares including the security personnel manning the mall’s entrances. Since then, a number of issues have been raised. Key among them is what shopping malls have done to enhance security and safety of shoppers. The answer to this question can be visualized through the anatomy of a visit to a typical shopping mall. Upon arrival, you stop at the gate for a mandatory security check. Security personnel inspect your car’s underbelly and also check what is in the trunk. Thereafter, you receive the green light to proceed.

After parking your car, another security check awaits you at the pedestrian entrance to the shopping mall. Here, guards search you using hand-held detectors. They also subject you to a body search. You could also be made to pass through a metal detector. Once it is confirmed that you pose no threat, the guards allow you in to proceed with your shopping activities. Unbeknown to you, security cameras installed strategically inside and outside the shopping mall keep track of your movements. They are connected to a central computer located somewhere in a security room within the shopping complex.

Shopping malls are also fitted with smoke detectors and alarm systems. In case the monitoring crews notice any unusual activities, they can quickly alert personnel on the ground to attend to it. This is made possible with the help of hand-held radio communication devices. The combination of all these security features is what has made shopping malls safe places to visit. However, a lot more needs to be done to increase the level of security awareness. Security firms must train their guards to be responsive to emerging trends in security threats. For instance, when security personnel use under search security mirrors, on vehicles seeking to gain entry into a mall’s parking lot, what should they be on the lookout for? Can a security guard identify a bomb hidden beneath a car? Are the police doing enough to boost security at shopping malls?

The people in charge of security at these shopping complexes also need sufficient training on first aid and crowd management. Every personnel posted to man entrances in such places should be conversant with the building’s outlay, know where the distress signal buttons are and be in a position to evacuate people immediately in case the need arises.

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