Local malls feature increased security for holiday festivities

by Abdel Shakur

Getting ready for Halloween used to entail carving pumpkins, watching “Friday the 13th” and loading up on candy. This year, Minnesota businesses and residents are adding another measure: extreme vigilance and stepped-up security.

Jason won’t be happy.

University alumnus Hardy Jackson said safety concerns have changed his 9-year-old son’s Halloween plans.

“Normally we only go trick-or-treating in houses that we’re comfortable with,” he said. “But this year we’re restricting it to acquaintances and people we know.”

Jackson said he is concerned about the possibility of someone manipulating an “extreme atmosphere” – referring to a heightened state of alert since last month’s attacks – to do harm.

“Really not knowing who your true enemy is, you turn to your friends for things like giving out candy,” he said.

The U.S. Justice Department issued a new warning Monday, citing a “credible threat” of terrorism occurring possibly this week, prompting added security measures at the Mall of America.

Earlier this month, the Eden Prairie Center canceled its planned Halloween celebration.

“We didn’t feel it would be appropriate this year,” said George Steele, Eden Prairie Center marketing director.

Steele said the mall felt strongly about the safety of its shoppers, but the measures weren’t taken in response to any specific threats.

“People should always feel safe here; that’s always a priority,” he said. “Unfortunately, Halloween can be associated with mischievous behavior.”

Steele said the mall has heightened its awareness and procedures since Sept. 11. He also said the decision to cancel the activity was made by the Chicago-based property company that owns the mall.

Meanwhile, the Mall of America is going ahead with plans for Halloween festivities. But kids over 12 will not be allowed to wear masks, costumes or face paint, said mall spokeswoman Maureen Cahill.

“A lot of people use the mall as their neighborhood,” Cahill said. She said shoppers often come to the mall for Halloween when weather and neighborhood location make trick-or-treating impossible.

“We certainly think its important to let people go on with their lives,” she said. “Halloween is a big event that they participate in.”

Cahill said for Halloween the mall will continue to operate on a heightened state of alert as it has done since last month’s attacks. She said mall officials are working closely with the FBI and state and local law enforcement agencies.

Cahill said the mall is aware of an e-mail warning malls would be the focus of a new round of terror attacks but said the FBI assured mall officials the e-mail was a hoax.

Rosedale, Maplewood and Burnsville malls are also proceeding with trick-or-treating events tonight. The malls said increased security is planned for the events.

Abdel Shakur welcomes comments at [email protected]