Shopping for the Best Security
Shopping malls have had a great history in America as a centralized retail location for a large number of people to visit, offering numerous products for shoppers as well as means of entertainment for visitors. Shopping malls have also become a popular target for shooting rampages, bomb scares and child abductions. Security at these large locations has to be visible to visitors, but not at all menacing.
Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trusts (PREITs) in the United States has a primary focus on shopping malls and power centers located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the eastern United States. As the Philadelphia-based company expanded in recent years to include more than 40 enclosed malls in 13 states, the growth brought with it new management, operations and security personnel who were guided by varying standards and
PREIT malls used to use several forms of security personnel, including in-house security, contract security and local police services. This mixed use of security coverage, while effective, resulted in a variety of standards and procedures that differed from mall to mall. As a result, PREIT saw a need to upgrade the manner in which its security personnel and policies were being managed with the same sets of standards.
A CLEAR AND PRECISE CHALLENGEAfter two years of research, PREIT selected security provider AlliedBarton to raise the standards within its security program to meet or exceed those of its peers in the shopping center industry.
t the initiation of its partnership with PREIT, the security provider was faced with the challenge of transitioning 400 PREIT and 85 contract employees to AlliedBarton in a short period of time. These individuals participated in training sessions conducted by AlliedBarton to bring everyone on board with the new culture of providing top quality security services.
An operations procedures manual was created and implemented to unify and standardize all security procedures so that every security officer, shift supervisor, site supervisor and security director/account manager was speaking and acting in the same manner. Incident and operations reporting systems were also standardized.
The service provider had to create a common thread, a unified system and a sense of pride among all of its new security personnel working PREIT mall properties.
“Our challenge was to get everyone marching to the same drummer,” said Bud Bradley, AlliedBarton’s VP of operations, who oversees the security program for all PREIT malls throughout the country.
THE OVERHAUL OUTCOMEThe mission to standardize security operations was not only successful, but also resulted in greater administrative flexibility for PREIT’s mall management. The security function is a component of mall management, overseen locally by each mall’s general manager, and globally by PREIT’s VP of retail management.
While AlliedBarton maintains strict controls, rules and procedures for its personnel, it communicates with PREIT’s VP retail management on a regular basis with respect to all policies, procedures and general decisions. This partnership has proven to be most effective for both long-term and critical response to security applications.
To further enhance the security partnership, there are quarterly reports sent to PREIT’s Security Committee, which is made up of the VP retail Management, its four regional managers, and the senior VP of risk management. The process allows the malls’ general managers and security officer personnel to perform with a thorough understanding of what is expected from each entity.
COMPETITION BREEDS SUCCESSProof of the company’s success in meeting the challenge of standardizing security operations has been reflected in overall “secret shopper” ratings at PREIT malls. The company operates a program known as C.O.R.E. (Creating Outstanding Retail Experiences), which provides periodic, unannounced operational audits conducted by an independent consulting firm to review all aspects of a mall’s operation. Security is just one part of the overall program. According to C.O.R.E. reports, the security services category is showing high overall scores.
As part of the security officers’ transition to AlliedBarton services, regional teams were created and assigned to visit every PREIT property to meet with the members of the security departments and assess immediate needs and while focusing on a smooth implementation of all new practices and procedures.
Within the first 60 days of the new assignment, personnel at all of the malls were processed as the vendor employees. This process included extensive criminal background screening and drug testing. Within the first 120 days, all security officers completed on-the-job and other site-specific training and certification, including use of pepper foam, handcuffing, the AED and first aid. PREIT and AlliedBarton combined security best practices into one standard operations procedures manual that was applied uniformly to all malls.
The results of the standardization efforts have been significant. “Our use of standard policies and procedures would allow you to take a security officer from a PREIT mall in eastern Pennsylvania and place him at a PREIT mall in Wisconsin, where operations and procedures would be identical and familiar,” explained Bradley.
Additional transitional steps included in the overall process are implementation of a new web-based incident reporting system, standardization of uniforms and vehicle operations.
The review and updating of standard operating procedures is a fluid process, with changes reflecting the subtleties of national, regional and local trends.
SIDEBAR: Retail Crime More OrganizedAccording to the National Retail Federation’s third annual Organized Retail Crime (ORC) survey, more than three-fourths of retailers (79 percent) said their company has been a victim of organized retail crime within the past year. The survey also found that 71 percent of retailers say they have noticed an increase in organized retail theft activity in the past 12 months, up dramatically from 48 percent in 2006.
Once organized retail crime rings steal merchandise from stores, they commonly sell the goods at flea markets or through online auction sites. According to the survey, 61 percent of retailers have identified or recovered stolen merchandise from a fence location, up from 59 percent last year. And nearly three out of four retailers (71 percent) also say they’ve identified or recovered stolen merchandise from an eFence operation, up from 67 percent last year.
The survey results include responses from 99 retailers representing all sectors of the industry including drug, supermarket, general merchandise, home improvement, apparel, department and specialty stores.
In response to the growing threat of organized crime against retailers, the National Retail Federation
(NRF) in affiliation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Food Marketing Institute launched the Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Network (LERPnet), a secure, web-based repository that will allow retailers to share information with each other and with law enforcement.