Security at luxury mall 'pays attention to detail'

Monday, May 9, 2011

ORLANDO—Walking into The Mall at Millenia, a luxury mall with 150 stores including high-end merchants such as one of only two Rolex storefronts in the country, uniformed security officers greet guests. That is intentional, said Gregg Moore, security director of The Mall at Millenia, during a visit as part of the media preview tour for ASIS International Seminar & Exhibits on Sept. 19-22.

“That’s the attitude and tone we want to set from the perimeter on in,” said Moore. Security has a highly visible presence throughout the 1.2 million square-foot mall as well as its parking lots. The mall employs 50 unarmed, proprietary security officers. “You cannot enter the mall without running into a security person,” Moore said. This “in your face” approach to security is two-fold. First off, employees and guests feel safe knowing security is looking out for them and “bad guys” realize security is aware and cognizant of activity in and around the mall.

Eight years ago, the mall started a program called Operation Good Morning, Good Night in its parking lots, where security officers are posted throughout the parking lot before the mall opened and during closing hours to make sure employees and guests are safe. Then officers resume normal patrol patterns in parking lots.

Mall security officers conduct regular foot patrols inside the mall. “We have a lot of rules here,” he said. “We’re not shy about approaching people. Our philosophy is to kill them with kindness.” After officers approach a violator and inform them of the rules (such as not putting feet on furniture or unruly children, for example), camera operators can then follow the violator through the mall electronically and notify officers if the behavior continues. “We pay attention to details,” he said.

The security department has a command center that operates 24 hours with a full-time dispatcher and full-time camera operator. Technology is an important part of mall security. Moore said that the majority of the mall’s square footage is under camera surveillance, but the mall is “in a continuous mode of upgrade.” The mall is currently using digital cameras and is in the process of adding a significant number of cameras, which will be completed by the end of May.

The mall also added devices last year to record all telephone and radio traffic coming in and out of the security dispatch office, Moore said. “We want to be able to recreate what was said for investigation and training dispatchers,” he said.

In addition to daily security operations, the security department also conducts tabletop exercises with local law enforcement every six months. Using a simple map of the mall property, Moore demonstrated how the group would set up and respond to various scenarios using detachable icons representing different entities including fire, police and emergency responders. “It’s low tech,” he said, “but this type of classroom setting allows us to work through different situations.” The mall also conducts active shooter sessions leading up to the holiday season to heighten awareness of that threat.

The mall and some of its retail tenants also participate in the Florida Organized Retail Crime Enforcement (FORCE) program, which notifies retailers about crime gangs moving through the area. Retailers can share information on an online bulletin board where they can share trends and photographs of suspects.

The mall works hard to maintain close relationships with law enforcement. Recently, mall security partnered with the Orlando Police Department and placed empty Apple product boxes in a bait van. “We set up the vehicles and nailed thieves breaking into the vehicle,” said Moore.

That partnership with law enforcement represents an evolution of the partnership between the private and public sector. “I’ve been in this business since 1975, and I remember law enforcement looking down on private security,” he said. “It has come a long way since then.”