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Dealing with 'active shooters' a growing concern for LI real estate execs

Two local commercial real estate organizations are hosting

Two local commercial real estate organizations are hosting events this month to address the topic of security risk and active shooter preparedness in commercial properties, like malls, on Long Island. Credit: iStock

In light of "active shooter" events in recent years, including the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi in 2013, and terrorist threats against the Mall of America in February, some commercial real estate professionals on Long Island are looking for ways to be better prepared.

Two local organizations are hosting events this month to address the topic of security risk and preparing for a shooting incident.

"It is an unfortunate reality that this is a tremendous, growing concern," said Long Island Real Estate Group co-president Scott Burman, whose group is hosting a presentation Wednesday by Richard Frankel, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Newark field office. LIREG is a networking organization for real estate professionals.

On April 16, the Long Island chapter of CoreNet Global, an organization for real estate executives within companies, will host a presentation by Sal Lifrieri, president of New Rochelle-based Protective Countermeasures & Consulting Inc., and former director of security and intelligence operations for former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's Office of Emergency Management.

Burman, who is also a principal at the senior-housing developer Engel Burman Group, said that news about shootings in recent years has sparked conversations about property security among some members of his group.

"I've been doing this for about 15 years, and I would say the amount of concern has grown exponentially," he said.

According to an FBI study, 160 active shooter cases -- those defined as involving "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area" -- occurred in the United States between 2000 and 2013. Seventy percent occurred in areas with commerce or educational facilities, the report said, with total casualties from all instances reaching 1,043.

From 2007 to 2013, there were an average 16.4 cases annually, more than double the average from 2000 to 2006.

Preparing for anything and everything that can happen at a property accessible to the public is difficult, said Frankel. Open public areas where people often congregate are what Frankel calls "soft targets."

"We're all very happy that the U.S. is a very open society, but there are times that it needs to be a harder target," he said.

While the majority of active shooter cases he has seen involve spurned lovers or disgruntled employees rather than terrorist plots, Frankel said simple changes, such as having trained guards on staff or requiring individuals to check in at security desks, can help deter shooters.

"Just by having some security there, it causes people to second-guess whether they should take that action," he said.

While no plan is perfect, working with security providers or local law enforcement to establish an emergency strategy is an important first step toward better security, he said.

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