Soft Targets. What are they and how do you defend them?

by todaystrainingblog

Lately, mainly because of workplace violence (WPV) and terrorist attacks, everyone has heard the term soft targets. And usually it is referred to when talking about a school of any kind through college, or a shopping mall. But with the explosion of soft targets being hit in the United States, not to mention the world, it may be worth knowing the innumerable locations that can be considered a soft target.

The first thing to address is what is a soft target? That is the easiest thing to tell you in this post. A soft target is one that is lightly, if at all, secured, defended if you wish, with massive amounts of people gathering in one place. Additionally, these massive amounts of people can be easily herded to a kill zone by 1 or more individuals.

Schools. For the most part in most places across the country, schools, of all types, are gun free zones. This makes them a pretty safe soft target for someone wishing to hurt a large amount of people in a short period of time & in a place where they are trapped. And what gets more headlines and free publicity for their group, than a school full of dead & wounded kids?

Shopping Malls. Again, most shopping malls have policies that prohibit firearms in the mall itself. They have hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands, think Mall of America, of people at any one time. And with all respect to the security staff, who is handicapped by management, are trained to do little more than direct someone to the right store.

Standalone retail stores. The same thing here as shopping malls although their policies against firearms is probably less stringent than a mall. They also have few if any security personnel, and loss prevention is an entirely different animal. And for the most part I’m talking about big box stores here I used to work LP for a couple of them.

          Stadiums & Concert halls. Whether it is for a sporting event or concerts it all adds up to the same thing. Metal detectors, bag checks, security officers, police departments. They are still geared towards rowdy fans, look at videos of Oakland Raiders or Cleveland Browns fans who may be drunk, not a terrorism incident. Remember the concert hall in Paris in 2015 not to mention the soccer stadium in the same incident?

Office or service businesses. Yes these businesses can be targeted as a  soft target. Mainly because again large groups of people in a confined space and little if any security around. This would apply to large office complexes or office buildings that have thousands of employees and offices that are interconnected. Think of One World Trade Center Plaza or one of the towering office buildings in your area.

Nightclubs & bars. Like Pulse in Orlando on June 12, 2016, they had an armed off-duty police officer at the front door. It didn’t stop the radical Islamist from killing & wounding more than 100 people. Most of these establishments have a rule against firearms but…are you going to wand and frisk everyone who comes in?

Hospitals. They are supposed to be open, warm, inviting, compassionate places to heal. But few have monitoring devices or officers trained to spot hidden firearms. And when they are in a gang area…

  Governmental facilities. You may think that government facilities are secure from attack, but they are not. Many offices have a security officer and a metal detector. But what good would that do if an upset customer walked in with an AR-15 or AK- 47? Having performed security for a county building when I was with First Response, Inc. of Mission, KS. I can guarantee you it is too easy in most respects.

Being realistic against the terrorism threat we have in this country and around the world, the above listed places are unsecured and will continue to be so. And this despite added security measures. Because of the reasons I listed above they are vulnerable and you can’t stop someone from doing harm in these places and the terrorists know that.

The only way to prevent this type of attack is turn the places into gulags or prisons on the moon. And with the American public accustomed to going where we want, when we want, and how we want this is not realistic either. And then you have to look at financial concerns and perception.

Financial concerns are the reason that most of these places have little if any security. A good security officer will cost you upwards of $70,000 per year, for an armed officer 56 hours a week. Metal detectors are in the 6 digits. Other security measures will add many more thousands.

And perceptions? These places will increase security for a period of months and then the public will get tired of it and it’ll stop, just like after 9/11. We have a very short memory in this country and as we get back into the school year all will be forgotten and forgiven because we forgot. And if we forget about it, did it ever really happen? Only the survivors will remember.


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

                     I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear