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Mall Security: Innovations and Collaboration to Protect Shoppers

When it comes to mall security, retail tenants, employees, shoppers, and food court patrons all need to feel safe and welcome both in the mall and in the parking lot or they may not return. What’s worse, an incident could prevent new customers from shopping at the facility.

The deadly four-day attack in 2013 by terrorists at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, struck a nerve among global mall patrons. It left many people wondering about mall safety in the United States. Post 9/11, developments driven by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, police, and physical security leaders have dramatically improved communication, training, and readiness throughout the mall and shopping center industry.

National Incident Management System (NIMS) Compliant

Ensuring that all security professionals employed in retail mall settings are NIMS compliant is essential. What does NIMS compliancy mean? It specifies the specific and comprehensive National Integration Center (NIC) and stakeholder responsibilities and activities necessary for developing, maintaining, and sustaining NIMS training. This program is the gold-standard in our industry that integrates FEMA coursework offered through the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) with United States Fire Administration (USFA) training.

Security programs at malls need to be customized to work together to manage potential threats at the ground level and coordinate workforce deployment based on actionable intelligence and relevant risk at each property. Through an integrated approach to enterprise security, it is important to create the safest, most secure environments that provide shopper peace of mind which address the following items:

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  • Protects facilities access points with connected visitor management technologies, access control systems and video monitoring solutions.
  • Responds to incidents in real-time with a workforce management platform that tracks and optimizes your security team’s movements to proactive mitigate incidents and facilitate rapid response.
  • Elevates your brand with advanced security intelligence and technology solutions that augment physical security services.
  • Achieves better insight into risk with improved command center operations with Global Security Operating Services and threat intelligence platforms.
  • Ensures business continuity, prepares for and responds to threats toward people and infrastructure, including workplace violence and active shooter preparedness training and protocols with professional emergency response planning.

State-of-the-Art Training Is Critical to Mall Security

Access to technology and state-of-the-art training is critical to ensuring that the security professionals who serve mall properties are ready and able to deal with crisis situations to help protect the overall structure and the common areas of the facility including the parking lots.

Today’s mall security personnel are highly trained security professionals. Regardless of prior experience, all security professionals should participate in rigorous industry-specific training. Retail security professionals need to be trained on how to handle physical altercations and confrontations and de-escalation methods. Retail security professionals should also complete comprehensive terrorism awareness and other relevant training.

Retail security training is not a “one and done” type initiative. At a minimum, security providers should conduct emergency training at every property, completing each year at least one tabletop exercise and one live emergency drill. At least one of these drills should focus on active shooter. In addition to the active shooter training, programs should cover hurricane response, evacuation procedures, emergency lockdown, earthquake, and wildfire.

Training needs to be proactive and reactive. For example, the coronavirus epidemic should ensure that security professionals receive special training on best practices for personal hygiene as well as sanitization of equipment.

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Public/Private Partnerships Crucial

Strong relationships with local law enforcement are a foundational tenet of a strong physical security strategy. Mall properties are made safer when security is enhanced with on-duty law enforcement who patrol the property based on specific requests by mall management and security, actionable intelligence regarding specific trends at the property established through careful analysis of incident statistics taking into specifics such as the type of incidents, where on the property the incident occurred, when they are occurring and any discernible trends in incident specifics such as type of vehicle being broken into, items that are stolen, etc.

Mall Security Professionals on the Move

mall security officerVisit a mall or shopping center today and you may see security personnel conducting patrols of common areas and parking lots on Segway’s, bicycles, cars, and by foot. There may be a roaming robot that patrols and detects suspicious behavior. You will see highly skilled and trained security professionals piloting the latest technology, with a host of IP-connected digital applications that include handheld multi-faceted communication devices, state-of-the-art closed-circuit television, life and fire safety systems, and remote online access control systems.

Today’s security professional is searching for and locating potential threats using technologically advanced artificial intelligence (AI) based surveillance systems that feature high-tech, full-motion and facial recognition. That technology allows security professionals to identify potential threats quickly and discretely, and alert security teams and law enforcement of the situation without causing panic and general disruption.

Tapping into the analytics that retail security professionals can glean from their AI-driven mobile devices, potential hazards are able to be identified that could cost properties thousands of dollars in liabilities. AI data also delivers comprehensive information on where the greatest incidences of security incidents are occurring so that the appropriate planning of security professional allocation can be made.

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While some movie audiences loved Paul Blart and Observe and Report, real-world contract security companies who serve malls and shopping centers see more fiction than fact in these comic portrayals. These hard-working, highly trained men and women are our country’s first responders and have a wide range of skills—from the sensitivity to deal with lost children to the ability to respond to and effectively address criminal activity including terrorism. Security professionals are often put in high-risk situations as they identify and confront criminals engaged in theft, trespassing, gang activity, and every other manner of unlawful behavior that occurs where thousands of consumers congregate on a daily basis.

In the shopping center sector, physical security requirements are continually evolving and include security professionals who can respond to the seemingly incessant bombardment of unexpected challenges. The current state of the economy and the pressures it places in the retail workplace demands that a vigilant security team is in place. Today’s retail security teams engage in on-going, comprehensive training and manage enhanced security protocols to help ensure that the worst-case scenarios are prevented and that a pleasant and safe shopping experience can be had by law-abiding consumers.

There is great value for property owners who invest in securing their premises. Customers, employees, and visitors are comforted by seeing security personnel, along with integrated video monitoring, and other security enhancements. Keeping shoppers safe and secure during volatile economic and political times requires a partnership between security providers, property owners and managers, and local law enforcement.

Our nation’s collaborative campaign between government, industry, and public safety training has significantly improved over the last decade. Mall security personnel are significantly better prepared to recognize and address the myriad of challenges they face on the job.

On the surface, the average shopper might see mall security simply as security personnel on patrol. But what’s beyond the surface is what makes those officers effective and the mall a safer place. A comprehensive approach to shopping mall security that includes training, technology, an emphasis on safety, communication, collaboration, and personnel selected for the property’s specific requirements is what’s needed to help ensure a safe and secure environment.

About the Author

Ty Richmond
Ty Richmond

Ty Richmond is president of Allied Universal® Risk Advisory & Consulting Services and International. Allied Universal is a leading security and facility services company in North America with more than 235,000 employees and revenues over $8.4 billion that provides comprehensive security services and technology solutions. Richmond can be reached at

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