Buckhead’s Lenox Square mall is responding to a year-long string of shootings by adding metal detectors and gun-sniffing dogs.

The security changes were announced in an undated “Safety and Security Update” marketing website provided Dec. 14 by public relations company Reputation Partners, which did not respond to a request for additional details about timing and how customers would be screened with the devices and dogs. The site is available as a link from the mall’s main website.

A publicity image of the main entrance to Lenox Square. (Special)

“We also recently added specially trained K-9 patrols. These dogs are capable of detecting firearms, which are expressly prohibited on [the] property,” the statement reads in part. “We’re also adding state-of-the-art metal detection technology that monitors for firearms. Individuals flagged by the K-9 unit or the metal detection system will be approached by APD [Atlanta Police Department] and directed to immediately leave the property if they are found to be carrying a firearm.”

Lenox Square, at 3393 Peachtree Road, has been the scene of several shootings and other gun incidents, including one killing, in the past 12 months. As the “Safety and Security Update” notes, the mall already has extensive security, including a miniature APD precinct, a private security force and an array of video and license-plate-reading cameras. But after a killing in March, former Police Chief Erika Shields said “more needs to be done” to improve the mall’s security.

“We are committed to the safety of our employees, shoppers and retailers and invest millions of dollars to support the largest private security program in Buckhead,” the Lenox Square statement said. “… In fact, apprehensions are regularly made in incidents occurring at Lenox Square.  Our message to would-be criminals is simple: think twice before committing a crime at Lenox Square because you will be caught.”

The statement also alluded to the involvement of mall management in a recently released “Buckhead Security Plan” whose main new feature is bolstering a private security patrol staffed by off-duty police officers. One of the main organizations involved in that plan is the Buckhead Community Improvement, a self-taxing group of commercial property owners in the neighborhood’s business district. Robin Suggs, who manages Lenox Square and the neighboring Phipps Plaza for owner Simon Property Group, is a Buckhead CID board member.

With the pandemic already making 2020 a nightmare year for retailers, Lenox Square has seen additional challenges. In May, rioting and looting in Buckhead spun out of downtown’s largely peaceful protests over the police killing of George Floyd; police and National Guard troops successfully barricaded Lenox Square while Phipps Plaza was among those looted. And the string of shootings at Lenox Square has continued.

The latest incident was Dec. 5, when a man accidentally fired a gun inside a store and ran away. In November, a man was shot inside the new Apple Store, and in October, a man fired a gun inside Neiman Marcus during an alleged robbery attempt.

In March, a man was shot to death in the parking lot over what APD said may have been a dispute over a space; a suspect is charged with murder in that case.

Other incidents included a woman shot during a parking-garage robbery attempt in December 2019; a man shot by an APD officer in a parking garage in January during a possible attempt to retrieve a stolen item; and a man shot in the parking lot in February in a mysterious incident where two suspects appeared to take a suitcase from a car the victim had occupied.

Gun violence has been a concern in other parts of Buckhead this year as well, leading to talk of a special “gun court” and gun buyback programs.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.