Local News


Social science can explain community's, media reaction to Las Vegas mall scare

Posted at 6:07 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 22:14:02-04

The thought of another mass tragedy affecting Las Vegas is almost too much to bear, but a masked gunman scare at a local mall renewed fears it could happen again.

Las Vegas police arrested Emile Hopson, 25, for threatening people with a fake weapon while wearing a mask at the Boulevard Mall near Desert Inn and Maryland Pkwy., late Thursday.

The motive behind the scare remains unclear.

Las Vegas police say Hopson's capture was possible thanks to a clear picture and description from the mall's internal video surveillance system.

"It turned out to be a fake weapon, but as it was unfolding, our people thought it was a real weapon," said Timo Kuusela, Vice President and General Manager of the Boulevard Mall.

Kuusela says security at the mall had been a top priority for the property since the owners took over the mall in 2013.

The mall's video surveillance system and exterior lighting were among the first improvements.

"The camera system was existing, but it was analog," explained Kuusela. "We went over to a digital type system that uses network communication, as opposed to old analog communication and it stores a lot more information," said Kuusela.

The system includes 100 cameras and in "good" quality, according to Kuusela.

Mall management says they have already identified logistical improvements after the gunman scare Thursday.

Mall management plans to provide Las Vegas police with an updated blueprint of the building and improve procedures to streamline access to secure areas of the property.

While the mall and police strategize over security measures, one local professor studying post-traumatic stress since 1 October, says the human reaction to Thursday's scare is to be expected.

"People are now going to be more careful," said UNLV's Assistant Professor of Psychology Stephen Benning.

"When we get reminded that this is a possibility, and we have been there before, this is no longer theoretical, or hypothetical, it is now something that has happened," explained Benning.

Benning's research has shown the community of Las Vegas has recovered from the elevated levels of post-traumatic stress since the mass shooting on the Route 91 festival.

His research asked a random sample of 215 people a series of questions regarding feelings, behaviors, and other impacts.

Benning asked the same questions at different intervals since the shooting and he noticed a drop in self-reported post-traumatic symptoms.

Benning says, however, many festival attendees and others directly impacted by the shooting event remain at much higher levels of post-traumatic stress related symptoms.

“It does not seem that the community overall is on edge, as we might otherwise believe," said Benning, citing his research.

Benning says the local media's reaction, including coverage on 13 Action News, can be correlated with the effects of 1 October.

"The intensity and the duration of the coverage, just breaking away from programming and interviewing as many people as possible, having long, drawn-out coverage as opposed to a single story that summarizes, it really suggested the immediate impact in the way that people thought this was a big deal," said Benning.