Centros comerciales afrontan la amenaza terrorista

It’s a hot July morning. An SUV pulls into the parking garage at a major regional mall in the suburbs of a major East Coast city that is at the top of any terrorist hit list. Four years after September 11, the garage looks pretty much as it always has — just like the parking facilities at hundreds of other malls.
That makes Steve Filyo uneasy. Filyo is a former officer with the Maryland State Police and helped crack the Beltway Sniper case. Now, he’s a private security consultant with Telemus Solutions. He’s here with a colleague, Leo West, a former FBI agent who investigated the terrorist attacks on the U.S.S. Cole and American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
Filyo doesn’t like the setup — too many dark corners, too many ways to hide a bomb out of sight of security cameras.
And he’s not much comforted by the sight of the security truck. It passes with its lights flashing, the guard scanning left and right. That’s good. But he’s moving too fast to catch everything. “If he was going a little bit slower, I might feel better,” Filyo says.
Filyo looks around for an indication of how a shopper who saw something suspicious — or faced a garden-variety mugger — might proceed. There’s a sign marked “Call for assistance.” Call whom? Where from? What number?
West and Filyo spot a pay phone. Tiny white lettering above spells out “Security” with a phone number. But the phone requires a 50 cent deposit. On a hunch, West dials 0. “This ideally should patch us through to mall security,” he says. A recorded voice tells him: “Press 1 for English; Press 2 for Spanish.” He slams down the phone and moves on.
Having struck at the heart of the U.S. financial industry with the World Trade Center attacks, the next most useful target for terrorists would be the giant consumer sector, which now accounts for nearly 70 percent of the gross domestic product. Soon after 9/11, scenario planners working for U.S. intelligence agencies identified malls as high-probability targets.
Relying in part on their analysis, former Assistant National Security Adviser Richard Clarke last January treated readers of The Atlantic to a chilling preview of how attacks on a Midwestern mega-mall (a thinly-disguised Mall of America) and other major shopping centers would play out. Within months of coordinated attacks on malls and casinos, consumer spending and travel evaporate, airlines would fail, the GDP would start to shrink and unemployment would soar to 9.5 percent. (Clarke was trying to shock, and he laid it on thick.) But his conclusion that malls remain an ideal — and vulnerable — target is not in dispute.
The Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly warned that malls are possible “soft” targets. Intelligence agents have intercepted messages from terror suspects that allude to possible plots involving malls. And they have found photos of malls in the homes where arrests have been made.
In Columbus, Ohio, a Somali native was indicted for allegedly plotting to blow up a mall. In April 2004, a Tanzanian called and threatened to blow up two shopping centers in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles case in the end turned out to be a hoax. (The caller was upset after breaking up with his girlfriend.) But in neither instance, did the authorities alert local mall owners.
Moreover, there’s evidence that the terrorists involved in the Madrid train bombings had originally planned to strike a suburban shopping area. Malls in Israel, Finland and the Philippines have all been hit by terrorist attacks.
Al Qaeda’s training manual, part of which has been published on the Department of Justice’s Web site, identifies targets for “blasting and destroying.” They include, “places of amusement,” “vital economic centers,” “strategic buildings,” and “important establishments,” any of which — in fact, all of which — describe shopping centers.
The July 7 London attacks are just the latest reminder of how ill-prepared the United States is for another attack. In London, where anti-terrorist tactics have been woven into the fabric of public life for decades, determined suicide bombers had no trouble carrying out their plan. In the U.S., the risks of getting caught are far lower. Beyond airports, government facilities and some office buildings, there is little attempt to control or even observe the flow of people and vehicles. This is particularly true of places, such as malls, where the public gathers and which are designed to maximize access, not limit who they admit.
“We can’t just sit and wait for something to happen,” says Moshe Alon, president of Los Angeles-based Professional Security Consultants, whose clients include several major mall owners. Alon is a former member of the Israeli secret service.
Experts like Alon agree that there is much to be done — and much money to be spent — before mall owners can assure the public that they are safe. Today, mall owners spend $1.30 a square foot annually for routine security, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That’s up from $1.04 in 2001 — a 25 percent increase, but only up 14 percent after inflation. That’s also tiny compared with overall CAM costs, which can be $15 to $20 per square foot.
“Malls will have to devote a larger portion of their profits,” to security, says Harvey Kushner, author of Holy War on the Home Front and a professor of criminal justice at Long Island University.
As things stand now, “There is nothing to stop a suicide bomber from walking into a mall,” says Roy Bordes, president of The Bordes Group, an Orlando, Fla. design and engineering firm that specializes in security. That, he says, is by design — literally. Nobody wants to spook the public by limiting access or forcing shoppers to pass through metal detectors. Nobody wants to do what security experts say that retailers must do: turn their sales employees into the first line of defense. “Retailers want to sell their merchandise,” says Bordes. “If a guy looks squirrelly, but has an American Express card, that will reduce the ‘squirrelliness.’”
Filyo shakes his head in disgust. There are simple, well-known procedures to make places like parking decks safer — like placing signs near security phones (free security phones, that is) spelling out the exact location, to help security personnel get there faster.
“They are trying to be discreet, but that accomplishes nothing,” says West. “There should be panic stations; you see them in airport parking lots,” he adds.
“That’s not much to ask,” Filyo chimes in.
Exiting the parking lot, West and Filyo take a spin around the perimeter of the facility. Passing a delivery entrance, the team spots one of the mall’s loading docks. Trucks entering the facility are another possible means of introducing bombs or biological weapons. They spot security cameras — a good sign. But are they set up to spot a dangerous interloper, headed for the bowels of the mall? Or are they still being used for what they were originally intended — to monitor the mall’s workers and protect against theft.
“I see a few cameras here, but nowhere else,” Filyo says. There’s nothing to stop someone from walking or driving up to the loading dock. There’s no sign of any kind of heightened screening process in place. A basic step, is to create checkpoints in delivery areas, making sure every vehicle arriving is on a pre-approved list.
The retail real estate industry is not unaware of what steps should be taken. Nor do executives dismiss the threat.
“The industry takes their responsibility to provide a safe environment for shoppers seriously and has taken a number of steps” to protect against the threat of terrorism, says Malachy Kavanaugh, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.
ICSC and other real estate trade groups have instituted a national communications network, the Real Estate Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a public-private partnership between the industry and the Department of Homeland Security. The network is supposed to broadcast information about terrorist threats and other advice to help spot vulnerabilities and plan responses to terror incidents.
ICSC also has a task force on security, has organized mass conference calls between industry officials and the Department of Homeland Security and has launched a regular conference series on the topic. A section on its Web site devoted to terrorism is called “Shopping Centers on Alert.” (Parts of the site, however, have not been updated and it has numerous dead links. When asked about it, ICSC officials said they were looking into getting those links fixed.)
Working with the Department of Homeland Security and other organizations, the ICSC also developed a half-day program to teach security personnel how to spot potential terrorist activity. According to the ICSC, a total of 1,200 security workers, of an estimated 11 million U.S. mall employees, have taken the free course. The organization is also working with George Washington University to develop a more extensive 16-hour course.
Like other real estate groups, the ICSC has worked with the Department of Homeland Security to develop routines for responding to terrorist incidents. The problem, according to industry security experts, is that the government laid out similar measures for all industries. Mall owners got the same recommendations as operators of chemical factories and nuclear power plants. Those prevention plans are designed to restrict access. But mall owners don’t want to go that route. They can’t, for example, put up electric fences around their sites or put manned gates on their parking facilities.
The Building Owners and Managers Association Web site recommends more than three dozen measures that owners can adopt, however. These include moving surveillance cameras into plain sight (to let mall patrons know that Big Brother is watching), increased perimeter lighting, adding motion sensors to detect activity in parts of facilities where people shouldn’t be, removing bushes and hedges where people could hide around perimeters and screening all mail and packages.
Some of this has been implemented. Yet, the retail industry’s most visible efforts around terrorism in recent months have been centered on lobbying for an extension to the terrorism insurance backstop (see story, page 107).
West and Filyo walk the mall’s exterior. They are troubled by what they don’t see: any more surveillance cameras. They arrive at the outside entrance to the anchor department store. The all-glass facade creates a bright, warm selling space. Mannequins in designer outfits beckon to shoppers driving past on the entrance road, separated from the front doors only by a small plaza.
Very inviting — to consumers and terrorists. There are no concrete barriers, no big planters. “You could easily drive a minivan or pickup truck right through these doors into the middle of the store,” West says.
That creates the opportunity for a far deadlier attack. Terrorists driving a minivan packed with hundreds of pounds of C4 explosive could turn the store into rubble in seconds. Or, Filyo suggests, they might even drive through the pretty dresses and blouses and jewelry and perfume cases and into the mall beyond. “I bet you within five minutes we can pick out a route to drive through the store and into the main mall area,” he says.
It would take little money to make the drive-through scenario impossible And it would not require making the plaza look like a piece of the Berlin Wall. A giant planter, or a few statues (spaced close enough to prevent a car from passing through) would do the trick. “We call that aesthetically pleasing landscaping,” Filyo says. “Most people wouldn’t realize what it’s there for.” But it would take a terrorist out of a vehicle and force him to strap on a backpack. He could still wreak havoc, but not nearly on the same scale.
Despite the recommendations of trade associations, the feds and security pros, only some malls have instituted even the most basic protections. There are no concrete barriers to keep car bombers out and surveillance systems, which cost half what they did five years ago, are still not standard equipment. General Growth Properties, which runs some of the biggest malls in the country, is installing closed-circuit cameras, but they will only be operating in half its 210 regional malls by yearend, according to David Levenberg, corporate director of security. Other mall owners contacted for this story either declined to comment or said that they had plans in place, but wouldn’t talk about specifics.
While owners and mall operators say their chief concern is to avoid needlessly alarming the public, they are also acutely aware of how costly a security upgrade would be for the nation’s 1,200 enclosed malls — not to mention the other types of shopping venues. Protecting the rapidly multiplying “town centers” might, in fact, require new construction to limit access — a key step in securing a property.
Indeed, there is no mystery to making malls and other commercial properties less vulnerable. It means limiting access and trying to keep civilians within view of security cameras. The Israelis have been doing it for years. Shopping at an Israeli mall is much like boarding an airplane: Customers must pass through metal detectors and undergo searches by security guards with handheld detectors to enter. Vehicles and packages are also subject to searches.
Despite repeated attempts to attack Israeli malls, suicide bombers have been unable to penetrate properties. Several have detonated bombs outside, after being stopped by security personnel. The results have typically been handfuls of dead and scores of injuries, but not on the scale that a bombing inside a center would have caused.
In the U.S., General Growth has proved that you can introduce advanced security measures without scaring the customers away. It’s doing so in the Grand Canal Shoppes as part of the overall security plan for The Venetian casino-hotel in Las Vegas. Shoppers strolling through the complex’s 120 shops are followed by high-tech cameras that can pan, scan and zoom in to details as fine as people’s fingernails. (See story, page 102).
A similar setup is available for parking facilities. A computer-controlled video camera automatically zooms in on the license plates of each truck and car trying to enter a facility. The information is used to build a database of every vehicle that has ever parked there. As the database builds up, the system can automatically pick up suspicious clues — a rented car for example, or a truck that’s never entered before. It can also be programmed to automatically lower a gate, trapping the vehicle until a security guard can check the driver’s credentials.
One such system, which is made by GlobalCase, can also scan ID badges. The database can include ID badge information, checking to see that it was not only legitimate, but also whether it matched IDs previously used by suspicious visitors. The system would also be hooked up to other properties in a company’s portfolio, so it can pick up “if the person was identified as a problem at another place,” says Alon. The system costs $200,000. The company says about 100 malls currently have the some form of GlobalCase’s product installed.
Brijot Imaging Systems, in collaboration with defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp., recently introduced a system using cameras that can detect whether people entering a mall are carrying hidden explosives or weapons. Using radio-telescope technology, it “sees” high-density materials, not people. The device can be hidden behind a wall or under an arch. Or it can be connected to an electronically controlled gate, which would force a suspicious individual to a specific entrance where a metal detector or guard would be waiting. A property would need two $60,000 cameras for each entrance — one to watch people’s backs and the other to look at their fronts.
Bordes says you could accomplish much the same thing for very little by setting up barriers to cordon off traffic at entrances, forcing shoppers to walk by security desks, where a “sniffer device” sounds an alarm when it detects nitrates.
The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority recently announced a $212 million plan to build a security and surveillance system to protect subways, commuter railroads, bridges and tunnels. That system will include 1,000 cameras and 3,000 motion- and intruder-sensors. They will be hooked into an “intelligent video monitoring” computer system that can send alerts if the system spots things like idle packages, people loitering or individuals with heavy backpacks. Each camera will capture distances up to 300 feet and cost $1,200. Each of the 468 subway stations will have at least one security camera.
Another technology especially useful for inside malls, relies on what’s known as object video software. Built into closed-circuit television cameras, it would detect, say, if there’s a bag left untended or an individual is in an off-limits area. Mall security would build specific rules into the software — look for an object left for more the three minutes in one place or in a particular area of the loading dock — and then would be alerted when a rule is broken. ObjectVideo in Reston, Va., which makes such a system, says that a large, suburban regional mall might require between 50 and 200 cameras costing between $150 and $500.
Filyo and West proceed inside to an attractive space, filled with natural light. It’s the skylights overhead. The mall isn’t big on plants, benches or garbage cans. That’s good — limiting the potential for leaving a bag of explosives and then running away.
The two-level interior is lined with white walls and pretty specialty shops. Mothers with young children stroll the corridors. Teens on summer break wander in and out of the apparel and shoe stores.
Here, Filyo notes, even a small device could be devastating — turning those pretty skylights into deadly glass shards, raining down on anybody below. Forensic engineers estimate that up to 90 percent of the injuries sustained in the Oklahoma City bombing were from falling glass.
“I don’t see any cameras in here,” West says. “If there were cameras visible in these hallways, are people going to be intimidated by that?” he asks, while motioning towards a young mother pushing a stroller nearby.
Walking through the concourse, West and Filyo notice that side corridors leading to the mall’s service areas are wide open and unmonitored.
“Some of the design of this is going to be based on local fire codes,” Filyo explains. “There’s a lot of standpipes and other things located in some of those same corridors where the access has been made to ease maintenance. … Here, at least, they should be monitoring the area either with people or cameras.”
West and Filyo also notice there aren’t any security phones in the concourse, nor is there any kind of direction of what shoppers should do or where to go in case of an emergency within the mall.
Walking around the food court is another shock. Here the realization sinks in: Mall security is still built around the paradigm of monitoring employees and protecting the merchandise. There is no evidence of security cameras monitoring the area. And yet, in the early afternoon on this hot day when people are seeking refuge from the latest heat wave, the court is teeming. Here we see the mall’s underbelly exposed. Someone could walk in and wreak havoc. And there’s not a security person in sight.
High-tech gadgets will help. But security experts agree that the most effective defenses are human. They include training and upgrading security staffs enlisting the help of retail employees and dealing frankly with the public about the threat. Experts have advised mall clients to institute security awareness programs for shoppers, so they know what to do if they see a suspicious package. “Go to a typical mall now and try to figure out how to call security,” says Bordes. “There are no signs, no phones you can see.”
Enlisting consumers in the security effort would be enormously beneficial, the experts agree. But they haven’t been able to get mall management to budge on this one. Filyo says that instead of avoiding the subject, mall owners could make security a selling point. Malls across the country have worked with federal, state and local authorities to prepare for attacks, but they don’t talk about it. “You can have a sign that says something like, ‘Retailers in this mall participate in the annual emergency response seminar.’ It will have the effect of making people feel better about coming here,” he says. “It used to be about cleanliness. Now it’s about safety.”
Clearly, it is the mall personnel who will make the biggest difference. As a first step, according to security experts, malls need to do what may seem like a no-brainer: hire guards who have received some form of certification. About 10 states don’t require any, according to Gail Simington, executive director and general counsel for the National Association of Security Companies. And many states that require certification only mandate about 16 hours of training, according to Thomas Walton, vice president and general manager of Allied Barton Security Services in King of Prussia, Pa.
But it gets worse. Those standards are for guards hired by third-party providers. Guards hired directly by property management generally don’t have to meet any state requirements at all.
The most crucial step — and, experts say, one move that has protected Israeli malls from attack — is training specifically geared to terrorist awareness. It’s what’s known as prescriptive training, aimed at helping security officers know how to recognize suspicious behavior, in order to stop an attack happening at all. That means not only spotting the person about to blow himself up, but, more importantly, observing possible plotters. Example: Three men enter a mall at different entrances, meet up, then split again. They might be buddies, who arranged to rendezvous for lunch, but that’s not how most men behave. A quick check might head off disaster–or mildly annoy three upstanding citizens.
Some security experts advise that there be a lot more training, and that it be continual, with constant refresher courses. Alon, for example, recommends taking online courses every few months, conducted individually, not in a group. Arik Arad, executive vice president of Arotech, a New York City-based firm providing security consulting and products, and the former head of Israel’s shopping center security, thinks the industry needs a mandatory two-week training program for mall security workers. (In Israel, where everybody knows to watch for suspicious characters, it takes a week, he says.)
The training must also be part of an integrated, mall-wide effort, starting with a risk assessment involving key people from security, human resources, marketing, and major retailers. The goal: to analyze a mall’s specific situation — everything from its layout to the risk level in its region — and figure out what the vulnerabilities are. Human resources should develop procedures for pinpointing suspicious job applicants — say, people who seem uninterested in the pay level or are over-qualified for the position.
An integrated approach also requires training for all levels of mall personnel, not just guards. “It involves a cultural change,” says Amotz Brandes, director of marketing and business development for Chameleon Associates, which provides training programs. At the Venetian in Las Vegas, for example, there’s a training program for everyone from valets to front-desk employees. “Janitors and waiters have to be trained to be the eyes and ears of the mall,” says Alon.
Even with increased training and staffing, however, malls will still have to consider restricting access. That doesn’t necessarily mean airport-style security, but probably means closing off some entrances, say security experts. One possibility is to channel shoppers through a few doors where security officers are always posted.
Parking garages and loading docks are probably a bigger problem than entrances used by pedestrians. “The loading docks are where you’re really vulnerable,” says Ofer Azoulay, who heads SFW, a security consulting firm in Los Angeles. He suggests blocking and guarding all entrances, but also keeping track of what deliveries are scheduled and the type of truck expected, and then having each truck inspected by a guard. “No one gets in without being checked out or watched,” says Arad.
Particularly dangerous, are underground garages where a bomb could potentially destroy the entire building. The key, according to Azoulay, is to pay attention to trucks and larger cars “where you can stash a lot of explosives,” he says, rather than checking under each individual vehicle.
West and Filyo scope out another anchor — an outlet of an upscale department store chain. They see lots of precautions aimed at stopping shoplifting. They see mall and store security guards. They see a few anti-theft detectors. There are a couple of cameras. But is that stuff going to deter someone intent on blowing up people, not stealing merchandise?
It’s good that security is visible.But West sees by the uniform that this store’s first line of defense against a terrorist is a typical, poorly paid rent-a-cop. “You can’t just be ‘Bubba’ anymore,” Filyo says. “You can’t just be the guy that couldn’t get hired by the local police department and instead winds up at the mall.”
What West and Filyo want to see are people stationed at the store (or mall’s) major entrances, not people in uniform, but maybe someone in a collared shirt or blazer — someone that would pass as a maitre d’ to welcome consumers to the center.
“How obtrusive or offensive would it be to see someone in a blazer, with a monogrammed logo for the particular store, just keeping an eye on things?” Filyo asks. “I don’t think that’s offensive, especially if you get away from a uniform.”
Shoppers would see a kind, if stern, face. But that person also would have a radio or Nextel phone clipped to his belt. He’d look like the guy that’s there to help, and not there to harass you.
“Even a radio, gives a perception that he’s tied in to a network,” West says.
“Damn” a terrorist would think. “This mall has a communication infrastructure. Perhaps they have an evacuation plan in place as well. Am I going to be stopped if I try anything?”
“It’s time to get rid of the lowest-bid security contractor,” Filyo says. “When you’re expecting people to liaise with police departments, fire departments and FEMA, it requires a person with people skills, organizational skills and the ability to make things happen. That’s going to cost more than what mall companies are spending. It shouldn’t be astronomical, but it’s more.”
Average pay for all security guards remains at about $10.30 an hour. According to Robert McCrie, professor of security management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, average pay for shopping mall guards tends to be somewhat less — and turnover for guards at most malls is about 100 percent a year. Arad recommends that malls pay around 30 percent more than they do now if they want to cultivate a higher quality, motivated force. One possibility: Tie pay raises to the completion of periodic training. “That way, you develop a professional force taking pride in their work,” says Alon. Other experts advise hiring people with experience in the military or law enforcement, noting that in Israel, all security have served their three-year stint in the army.
At the same time, the most motivated security force won’t do much good if it’s under-staffed. For guards to spot all telltale signs of terrorist actions, there has to be more of them. “When you move to the next level, you need more manpower,” says Alon. Bordes says malls will need to post guards by all entrances, requiring as much as 30 percent more security employees. (The number of guards used in malls at any one time ranges from two to 10, according to Alon.)
What’s at stake?
Picture the airline business after September 11. Travelers stayed away in droves. The industry took a financial hit from which it still hasn’t recovered. Major carriers sought bankruptcy protection while others teetered on the brink. And the industry is still suffering despite travel volumes returning, and even exceeding, pre-September 11 levels.
The airline industry could also be used as a predictor for what could happen after the first mall attack. Could the industry (and shoppers), like the airlines and passengers, accept metal detectors and random searches? If malls are proved vulnerable to a serious attack, what would really happen next? Is Clarke’s doomsday scenario that far-fetched?
“People aren’t going to stop shopping. But they will make decisions of where to shop based on what mall has the tightest security,” West predicts.
One theory suggests that malls in major urban areas are the prime targets. But others contend that an attack at a mall in Middle America could do the most economic damage. No one would feel safe: “If they can hit Kansas City, it could happen anywhere.”
The best solution would be to prevent any terrorist from entering when they realize they can’t get past security. In short, it helps to learn from the Israeli experience. In most attacks, suicide bombers blow themselves up outside the shopping center because they knew they couldn’t get past security.
And, if there’s a terrorist attack, the first malls to introduce tougher moves could end up being the winners. “In Israel, people were quite upset at first,” when new measures were installed, says Arad. Eventually, he says, they would not go to a shopping center if they did not see that security was in place.
The High Cost Of Security
Risk Assessment:
$15,000 to $25,000 for an initial assessment and report.
Depending on model types decorative security ballards can cost between $235 and $400 apiece. A mall with 10 entrances would want two or three ballards per entrance, putting the total cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
Bare-bones cameras cost $150 to $500 apiece.
System with record/playback and other features costs $3,000 to $7,000 for system with four cameras.
Average mall would need 50 to 200 cameras, according to security consultants.
That puts a total cost at up to $1 million per mall.
Brijot’s high-tech cameras, radio-telescope cameras: $60,000 each.
MTA subway cameras, $1,200 each.
Mall security personnel wages: About $10.00 per hour.
Average mall hours: 80 per week.
Number of personnel active at any time: Between 2 and 10.
Total cost: $80,000 to $416,000.
Online courses on security start at as little as $19.95 per month. ICSC also has offered a free course that more than 1,200 professionals have taken. More specialized classes, in areas such as cargo profiling and intelligence analysis, can cost up to $100,000.
Other Technology:
CaseGlobal’s License Plate and ID system: $200,000 per mall.
CaseGlobal’s service to digitize mall blueprints to give to first responders: $15,000 per mall.
Sources: Telemus Solutions, ICSC, Stonewear Force Protection, CaseGlobal, Chameleon, Brijot, Lockheed Martin
High-Class Security
The Grand Canal Shoppes, attached to the Venetian casino-hotel in Las Vegas, illustrates how mall owners can step up security without resorting to the tactics of stopping and searching bags.
Shoppers walking from the casino through the complex’s 120 shops are followed by high-tech cameras that can pan, scan and zoom into details as fine as people’s fingernails.
Cameras in some parts of the mall are connected to motion detectors, which trigger silent alarms that then alert security staff. The mall also uses biometric facial-recognition software and has explored using license-plate recognition tools to monitor vehicles in the casino’s massive parking garage. All of this is overseen from a centralized, high-tech command center and a security staff that numbers more than 100 people.
“This building has 80,000 people a day pass through it. We need to protect them,” says David Shepherd, a former FBI agent and head of security at the Venetian. “I’m going to do all kinds of things to mitigate threats.”
The Venetian also runs an academy for its security staff that includes 17 different courses. It also gives the rest of its staff a scaled-down security training.
“That includes the front desk, the valets, the customer service folks. Why is the airport the only place where we’re worried about a bag being left alone?” Shepherd says. “We have to treat everything as if it were a real threat.”
Lastly, Shepherd has met with emergency management officials, county fire police officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get input on the asset’s security.
“If you have something like that, it makes whatever happens stronger for the preservation of life,” he says.
All 88 Las Vegas casinos also frequently share information on security through conferences and seminars. And Shepherd speaks to audiences from all parts of the industry from the cleaning staff up to executives.
Shepherd acknowledges that the tactics taken at the Grand Canal Shoppes aren’t right for every retail proprety. Still, it illustrates an alternative scenario to one where security has to be oppressive.
Sensors are hidden in decorative arches or other doorways. Behind the scenes it may set an alarm if someone carries in something suspicious or enters a forbidden part of the mall. Then seasoned security pros — people with real law enforcement experience — emerge from behind the scenes to pull the person aside discreetly.
“When you start searching bags when people come into malls, people are going to raise hell,” says Steve Filyo of Telemus Solutions. “I don’t think people are going to raise hell at seeing people poised to assist.”
— David Bodamer

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