Apr 4, 2023 - Business

Mall of America's new security will include gun-sniffing dogs

Two cops on bikes outside the Mall of America.

Officers on bike patrol at the Mall of America in March. Photo: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

The Mall of America is training its first firearm-sniffing dog and evaluating a gunshot detection system as part of new security measures revealed to reporters last week.

The big picture: Security has become a front-of-mind issue in the wake of high-profile shootings — including the January shooting that left one dead — at MOA, which saw over 32 million visitors last year.

  • Staff members have recently been giving news media inside looks at mall security, including tours of the control room where several officers monitor its "extensive" camera network 24/7.

What's new: The K-9 unit just brought in an 8-week-old puppy that will soon begin training to detect any component of a firearm, though the mall hasn't determined how many dogs will be in the program.

  • The gunshot detection system, which is still being evaluated, would instantly notify security, who then determine if the mall should initiate lockdown.

Details: The current lockdown procedures — including sending mass notifications to visitors and staff, changing digital signs and locking the transit center doors— can now be initiated with just one button.

State of play: The mall staffs unarmed patrol officers, including plainclothes officers and a bike patrol, a K-9 unit with six explosive-detection dogs and an intelligence analyst. Additional part-time officers monitor the 3pm curfew for kids under 16.

  • The Bloomington Police Department also has 12 full-time armed officers stationed inside.

Reality check: Though security ran over 50,000 people through metal detectors for several weeks at some entrances during a pilot program last fall, they decided it wasn't a good fit, vice president of security Will Bernhjelm told Axios.

  • "It's not like Target Field — we're a very open environment. There are 27 public entrances. … The mall wasn't built with this in mind," Bernhjelm said.

Of note: While the mall uses license plate readers, a spokesperson said it is not yet using facial recognition technology.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Twin Cities.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Twin Cities stories

No stories could be found

Twin Citiespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Twin Cities.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more