"Gun Free" Mall Bringing In K9 Units To Sniff Out Firearms

A Wisconsin shopping mall that was home to a recent shooting that left eight people injured says it will start enforcing the facility’s “no guns allowed” policy by bringing in dogs trained to detect firearms. Mayfair Mall’s general manager says the Vapor Wake Public Safety Canine Detection Program will pair K9 units with mall security guards in an attempt to keep the mall gun free.

In a news release, Chris Jaeger, the senior general manager of the mall, said firearms and weapons are prohibited inside Mayfair. The new program will allow “trained security professionals to identify anyone in violation of this important policy,” Jaeger said.

“The VWK9 program demonstrates our ongoing commitment to provide a safe, peaceful and inclusive environment for everyone,” Jaeger said.

A news release from Brookfield Properties, the operator of the mall, said the security program at the mall is both “highly visible and behind the scenes.”

“The VWK9 program is an additional safety measure and something the entire community can appreciate,” the news release said.

Back on November 22nd, an altercation between two groups of people led to a 15-year old pulling a gun and opening fire, wounding eight people, including four “innocent bystanders.” The 15-year old suspect was taken into custody after fleeing the mall in the chaos, and he’s currently facing eight separate counts of reckless injury while armed with a dangerous weapon.

There’ve been concerns about safety at the Wauwatosa mall even before the shooting a couple of weeks ago. In fact, the mall has apparently been in talks with the Vapor Wake about bringing their dogs to the mall since the beginning of the year, but only decided to move forward with the plan after the 15-year old opened fire.

I have several questions about how this will actually work in practice, as opposed to being another bit of security theater. If the K9 units actually hit on a patron who’s just strolling through the mall, what happens next? Are police called in to pat the patron down? Does mall security confront the patron and try to remove them from the facility?

Considering the dogs are trained to sniff out oils and gunpowder residue left behind after a firearm discharges, is it possible that the canines could inadvertently hit on a customer who’d recently come from a range, or someone who’d been out hunting earlier in the day?

Mayfair Mall is privately owned and can implement whatever security features it wants, but I don’t know that I’d actually feel any safer wandering through a mall with gun-sniffing dogs on hand. My guess is that the K9 units are far more likely to sniff out concealed carry licensees who’ve unintentionally brought their firearm with them into the mall than pinging on gang members or criminals who are carrying with nefarious intent. The mall’s management might not see any difference between the two, and the gun-sniffing dogs certainly won’t be able to differentiate between someone who’s forgetful and someone intent on committing a felony, but I’m guessing that concealed carry holders and those regularly train at gun ranges may be shopping elsewhere in the near future

Jul 29, 2021 12:30 PM ET