Israelis Ask: Where Have All the Mall Guards Gone?

Rumors of a reduction in the number of guards at important public and commercial institutions are making the public feel less protected.

Tali Heruti-Sover.
Tali Heruti-Sover
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Tali Heruti-Sover.
Tali Heruti-Sover

Rumors have circulating in recent days that the Azrieli malls in Tel Aviv and Modi’in are not being adequately protected by security officers, as they were in the past. Reporters for the Internet news site Walla! even successfully snuck a fake bomb into the mall in Tel Aviv, one of the most packed in the country, without anyone stopping them.

The Azrieli Group said in a statement that it had recently updated its security policy based on professional recommendations and in cooperation with the Israel Police. The company said it would not provide any specific details regarding its new security policies and procedures, but it would take into account recent complaints.

However, the problem is not just with specific malls. In the past year, guards have disappeared from public parking lots, while other establishments have also downgraded their security arrangements.

“Just 20-30% of bank branches are protected by guards today,” says Pini Schiff, CEO of the Israel Security Association. “Most of them have already gotten rid of this type of security.”

Schiff says that a bank robber would be able to determine what kind of security a bank branch has by its size, and target them accordingly.

A size criteria also prevails among chain stores in Israel. “It used to be that there was a guard for every 500 square meters [of floor space],” says Schiff. “Today, it‘s just for every 800 square meters. Smaller store branches don’t employ a guard.”

Nevertheless, Schiff says he has not heard of any changes to the number of guards at the Azrieli malls. “Actually, in the field of malls calls to decrease security haven’t been heard,” he says, adding that an increase in demand for armed and unarmed guards at public institutions has balanced out any decline in demand in other sectors.

Schiff says that 90,000 to 100,000 families are supported by people employed as security guards, and there has been no significant layoffs in the industry.

“There is no job security tied to a specific place in our industry. A guard knows that he may end up guarding any old place and the companies move guards around as a matter of routine,” he says.

While the public may feel less protected these days, Schiff says the standards set by the Israel Police for security guards are rising, with positions being filled by more capable people. “Today, paradoxically, it's harder to fill positions due to a lack of suitable manpower, but the field is stable.”

A guard at the entrance of the Azrieli mall in Tel Aviv.Credit: Nir Keidar

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