Image is Everything
Crime, especially high-profile crime, can permanently change that whole image. Providing great solutions involves expertly blending security staff with security technology, and plans and procedures.
Sister publications SECURITY and SDM brought together four professionals in retail, restaurant and public spaces security – two practitioners and two systems integrators – who specialize in finding solutions to the security issues in this segment. Here, they discuss the unique needs, the problems they face, the technology solutions, and how teams can work together to make these places more secure.
The roundtable discussion is moderated by SECURITY Editor Bill Zalud, and SDM Editor Laura Stepanek.
Bill Zalud: What do you feel are the unique needs of security in the public spaces in a facility that you have responsibility for?
Keith Kambic: I think it’s a perception image. We’ve all seen this movie, Mall Cop, that has just come out. It is certainly something Jon doesn’t like to see, nor do I like to see. When you’re dealing with a high bit of volume of public, image is extremely important. You want to come off with the right image.
Now, generally our security takes care of the Sears Tower – the first person that the people see when they come in, the last person they see when they leave. Regardless of what kind of visit they may experience in the facility, if we don’t do it right on both of those ends, that’s going to be the image that they leave with.
I think another concern certainly is having to deal with the phenomenon of YouTube and photography, as our building it is a very photographic building. It happens every single day. If our security officers are out there and they’re chasing people that are taking photographs, and they are strictly tourist photographs, it’s going to be a bad image for us. Somebody is going to get us on YouTube. It could be just a very negative image.
So it’s really important to train your people the differences between what a tourist is, what a tourist isn’t, what may be a possible problem and what is just a simple photograph.
The last thing – as we all have to deal with, especially in places that have high finishes and architecturally pleasing [décor] – is trying to get our security equipment from a physical standpoint in there and still maintain that architectural pleasure. It’s difficult at times, especially if you’re dealing with high-rise buildings, high-cost finishes, high-cost lobbies. The last thing that the management team, the ownership, the architect wants is throwing in a bunch of ugly security equipment and a) making it obvious and b) detracting from those finishes.
Bill Zalud: Now, there are times even at your building when you want people to know there is security? At garage entrances, for example?
Keith Kambic: Absolutely, you want people to see that physical deterrence, but at the same point in time, you still want to make it very convenient for those people to come in and out. So you’re kind of straddling that line between really good customer service and really good security. I think it’s a challenge from time to time, especially these economic times. You don’t want to be seen as not supporting the team.
Bill Zalud: When you were talking about tourists taking pictures, it reminds me that over the years, Sears Tower and other icons have been identified not necessarily in real terms as targets?
Keith Kambic: Yeah, although there’s really never been a credible threat to the Sears Tower. It’s important to train, train and train. I can’t emphasize that enough – and that’s training your staff. It’s not just the security officers. It could be the engineers. It could be the janitorial staff. I mean, there are a lot of eyes and ears right there.
Because they’re just recognizing what is in the norm and what is out of the norm. We’re all in the security industry so we’re accustomed to that, but just simple observations and teaching these people what to look for and what is usual and what is unusual will give you really a lot of nuggets along the way.
Bill Zalud: Jon, what are your unique needs of security in public spaces, such as shopping centers and retail and restaurants, too?
Jon Lusher: I think Keith is absolutely right. There is a very important balance of presenting an aesthetic view and presenting, at the same time, a vision for the user and the customer that there is security. It need not necessarily be that security is everywhere and we are watching everything that you do.
But while there is certainly a lot of question about the deterrent value of such things as cameras and other security equipment, it is certainly something that we generally believe in and the customers believe. You can make the security aspect – whether it is cameras or whether it’s people – you can make it very visible, but it has to be pleasantly visible.
You have to have the cameras. You have to have the turnstiles. And have you to have the people. So that all three of the things that need to go together – the people, the physical design of a facility, as well as the technology – they all have to work very well together and they all have to be trained.
You certainly don’t want the kind of facility where there are barriers to people’s pleasant use of them. At least that’s where we are today.
Now, can that change? I think we would all say, “we hope not.” We all don’t want to be in the armed camp. If you go into an Israeli shopping mall – the true shopping mall, not the exterior one – you go through the one or two entrances that exist. You go through metal detectors and you are physically searched. We aren’t there yet. I hope we never get there. The American people don’t want to see that.
Bill Zalud: Jon, then you’re in agreement with Keith that there needs to be this balance in retail, in restaurants, in lobbies of public buildings? You don’t want to give the impression that that with so much security there might be a perception of danger?
Jon Lusher: That’s right. I think that’s one of the things that people misperceive; if they see too much, they say, “Well, what’s wrong here?” We used to see this with shopping centers that had a police substation outside of it. The new customer would come in and say, “What are all of those police cars doing here? Is there something wrong?” Whereas, in fact, they were changing shifts.
Not that many years ago if somebody saw a police officer in a mall or in a public building, there was something wrong; but now since 9/11 I think everybody is tremendously reassured to see police. In fact, to see guys walking around in SWAT gear is not that unusual in the retail environment anymore. People like to see it. They are reassured by that, but it can still go too far and we don’t want to do that.
Bill Zalud: Let’s bring in Jamie. How does Protection One look at the unique needs of security at restaurants, retail and public spaces?
Jamie Brennan: Public spaces is about providing patrons and customers a level of comfort and providing a good experience. I mean, that’s what this is for: so they want to come back, so they want to return, to get good traffic flow.
You don’t want to scare them away. You don’t want to make them feel insecure, but you have a unique mix in there when you’re directing that need. Not only do you have providing traditional asset and premises protection from both internal and external threats, in providing security for the patrons so that they will return, but you’re also providing security for the employees. You want to be able to attract or retain the right types of individuals and they need to feel secure in that environment for situations where you are handling cash. You know, during operating hours, there is not as much threat as there is after operating hours.
You need to take the entire operation from beginning to end when the associates and customers are there, and address those needs kind of independently and make sure they dovetail together nicely.
Bill Zalud: Michael, how does Vector Security look at the unique needs of security at restaurants, retail and public spaces?
Michael Grady: Retailers have two predominant public safety goals. They need to keep their customers and employees safe within the shopping environment. The reason are simple: A safe environment transcends into a comfortable shopping experience.
Over the past number of years, crimes against retail employees while they are on the job have become even more pronounced. In fact, Labor Department statistics show that retail employees are more likely to be assaulted than teachers, medical workers, mental health workers and even law enforcement officers.
The danger has become even more exaggerated by the impact of Organized Retail Theft gangs, who tend to be capable of greater levels of violence during the commission of their crimes and due to the fact that retail robberies are also up.
Shortly after 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax scare, retailers were forced to develop comprehensive strategies to keep customers and employees safe within store locations. Those set of circumstances became even more strained and the impact of customer and employee safety came clearly into focus by the Beltway Sniper incidents of October 2002. During that time, these guys virtually shut down retailers for a number of weeks before they were captured. No one would come out to shop and the holiday shopping season was coming up fast. Had they not been caught when they did, no one knows what the holiday shopping season would have turned out to be for Beltway-based retailers. In fact, two of our national retail customers had shooting incidents take place right in their store parking lots and they were scared, for both their customers and their employees.
Bill Zalud: Both in times like those, as well as generally, what types of policies, procedures and especially technologies work best in public spaces?
Michael Grady: The best “technology” seems to be planning. Retailers have comprehensive plans regarding how to handle a variety of security and safety threats including shooters, bomb scares, fires, domestic disputes, violent shoplifters and organized retail theft gang members, toxic spills and a host of other threats. After a plan is constructed, they use the most effective safety technology they can to meet the threat.
A great example of that is the “Code Adam” program, where they announce the existence of a lost or missing child initially through their public address system. From there they use their video system, and loss prevention staff members to scour the store looking for the missing child. Associates station themselves at all store exits and they begin checking every nook and cranny of the store to see if they can locate the child. The system then also includes informing private security and public law enforcement for their assistance, too.
Retailers also use a number of telephone hotlines to report unsafe conditions or practices in their stores. The average “slip-and-fall” incident costs retailers nearly $15,000, and some incidents can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Retailers also use Web-based threat assessment programs from organization like The National Retail Federation and Jewelers Protective Alliance. These programs broadcast information immediately to retailers when an incident occurs in some part of the country that may also affect them. Retailers in specific geographic areas of the country have also formed ad hoc associations that commonly trade off information on crimes they have experienced, so that others can be warned and prepared.
Keith Kambic: Two of the newest technologies that are really increasing a lot in awareness and security in public spaces are analytics and intelligent recorders. For instance, you have a loading zone that you don’t want trucks in there from a certain time to a certain time. Before, you would have to have an operator just sit there and look at that thing. Now with the analytics, you can put a time margin on there. If you get a standing vehicle, it sets off an alarm to your control room. Now, you truly become an incident-based reporting system.
I think one of the other big things that we’re already seeing are the megapixel cameras with the IP technology. It’s impossible for an operator to look at 130, 140, 150 cameras. You have to go to an incident-based reporting system. With the megapixels, it allows you to go back, certainly from the recording standpoint, and take a look at a lot of the stuff that traditionally your fixed cameras wouldn’t have necessarily got. It’s happened to all of us where you go back and take a look at an incident and the camera is pointed in the wrong direction.
I think a lot of businesses across the board can use those two
Bill Zalud: Jon, what’s your call on this one?
Jon Lusher: I think Keith is clearly right; those are two of the biggest things. One of the issues that we deal with in the mall and retail environment is that these two sectors are fairly slow in the uptake on some of these new technologies. I don’t know what’s behind that.
Certainly, they are businesses with very sharp pencils; but I think that the idea of technology doesn’t seem to resonate with a lot of the retail environments. It’s a unique kind of security in that protecting the asset doesn’t involve keeping people out of spaces in the vast majority of cases. It really involves a personal interface with as many customers as possible; that is, the security officer and the maintenance person meeting up with people and talking with them and everything.
The retailers are focused on loss prevention, shoplifting types of things. But the mall sector is fairly slow in responding to a lot of the technology breakthroughs. I think part of that is because the way their budgets are structured. They have not generally understood the obsolescence of equipment in terms of budgeting for it over a number of years. It is not uncommon to find older systems that are really pretty functional.
Bill Zalud: Jon, the bread and butter on the security side for retail and restaurants is intrusion detection, openings and closings and so on. That’s still the basis of security for many of these facilities, right?
Jon Lusher: It certainly is for the individual retailer and restaurant. There are very few malls that actually have a perimeter protection system. One of the reasons is because you don’t have a limited number of doors. It is not unusual for a large shopping center to have 20 to 30 doors, and a large number of back doors and loading docks in addition to those doors. So it’s a very difficult perimeter to control. Perimeter is generally controlled by non-technological means commonly known as a “flat foot” – the guy who shakes doorknobs. The camera system is where we have started to see the analytics become more useful and that is the after-hours piece when the malls and the retailers convert themselves into a traditional security environment. That is, “Now we do have to keep people out,” so the mission and the process changes 100 percent at night and those cameras with analytics at night are extremely valuable to the malls.
Jamie Brennan: The solutions today are being able to combine a lot of information, a lot of data and present the information in useful and, most importantly, actionable ways. It’s true that it used to be that if someone had four cameras they’re ahead of the curve. Now, 40 cameras may not be enough.
One operator viewing 40 cameras is not an efficient way and the technology that is coming out – whether it is video analytics or proper application of some of the [technology] that’s been around for a long time (whether it’s directional analytics, whether it’s regular motion detection tied with other edge-devices that can give you a simple status information) can really be an asset when you free up somebody from trying to watch video.
If I can feed him that information through electronic means and make the review of that information accurate: Someone goes out the wrong door. I’ve recorded on a DVR. I’ve sent somebody some information on their BlackBerry. I can review that information quickly by knowing right when the time is. I can get my – as Jon was saying – my flat foot to the right place at the right time without having to tie him to a central place.
Bill Zalud: Do you also see in the retail environment, Jamie, a wish to integrate security technologies with their business systems, POS, for example, or traffic management or other ways?
Jamie Brennan: Integration means different things to different people. But, absolutely, I would say our customers are asking us to get deeper into their business.
What’s changed from a few years ago to now in selling to a customer and providing solutions? Building a rapport used to be, “How many kids do you have? Do you like fishing?” But with today’s professional, building rapport is all about understanding a business; understanding the different needs during the operation hours where you want to have the perception of open hours and have, maybe, an overt preference to security, but not an intrusive feeling that will chase people away, but at night you want to lock it up. You want to narrow down your perimeters as Jon has talked about. If you try to do the perimeter of the mall, probably too much. I have to address the issue of, how does that person get from their retail shop to their car safely?
That’s when a broader understanding of business applications and building rapport with customers becomes critical to providing solutions that offer value.
Bill Zalud: Keith, you’ve been in the business a while. What changes over the years have you seen as the most important?
Keith Kambic: I think that Jamie hit it right on the head. People in our position want their system integrator to be more of a partner and to be less of a friend and put on more of the business hat. You expect your system integrator to bring some unique solutions to the table, not only from a security standpoint but certainly from an ROI standpoint. Bill, you touched upon it just briefly with people counting and POS. You need your integrator to really think out of the box. They really do have to not just come in nowadays and say, “Okay, how can I sell this guy something and how much profit margin can I make out of it?” That’s going to be a short-term solution and it’s going to be a short-term relationship.
Here at Sears Tower we’ve had Jonson Controls with us for a long time and I think the reason is they are in that mindset. They understand that the economy is tough. They understand the challenges that we have on a day-to-day basis and they’re willing to come to us with unique solutions, unique answers and then also be a partner as we move it forward and put together this stuff and making sure that it’s still cutting edge.
Bill Zalud: Even 10 years ago if I interviewed a security director at a retail establishment like a Target, they would tell me they’re the security professional at Target. Now, they tell me they’re a Target business executive with security expertise. I think you’re saying that at the same time for system integrators, you have to know your business not theirs.
Keith Kambic: They really do. It’s important for them to know their business, because the technology changes so often, they’ve got to keep up on their side of the business, but they absolutely need to know your side of the business and help you out whenever you can. Perfect example, we put analytics in here late last year and we do use it for the traditional security things, but then on the other side of the coin, one of the things we worked with our integrator for is to look at our lines at our customer reception desk.
We’ve set a parameter what we believe is an acceptable length of line [in our lobbies]. When it gets so long it actually sets off an alarm and dispatches additional people to the reception desk so that we can keep the customers continue to flow. Once again, it’s all about customer service. That’s a perfect example of using a security technology for a non-security related solution.
We have 100 tenants housed in the Sears Tower. On the visitor’s side, we had about 81,000 people visiting those tenants. If they have a bad experience, if they’ve waited in line for five, 10, or 15 minutes to get to see a lawyer, let’s say, it will leave a bad taste for them not only about the tenant but also about the building. So we are using analytics technology to dispatch personnel to ensure that they have a better customer service experience.
Bill Zalud: And you’re responsible for the outside of the retail section, but you are not responsible for their facility in terms of security?
Keith Kambic: That’s correct.
Bill Zalud: Jon that’s the same with shopping centers and malls, too, right?
Jon Lusher: Absolutely. There is a distinction there between the landlord and the tenant. One of the things that we find very difficult to deal with when we have someone to present security equipment to us is that they don’t know our business and they start talking about catching people and looking at shoplifters and watching the tenants’ inventory and we have to explain it to them. That’s really very time-consuming and it shows us that we really don’t want to educate the provider as to the kind of thing that we are looking for.
Bill Zalud: Jamie and Michael, on the integrator side, what’s changed over the years? I would assume you would agree with Keith that a longer time relationship, a closer partnership and a better understanding of your clients’ business is vastly more important today?
Jamie Brennan: Absolutely. Building rapport is all about understanding what keeps them up at night, what they are going through in applying the solutions that are available. I think what’s changed is that the technology is changing at a faster pace, especially video – differentiating what is on the hype curve and what’s deployable when you look at the broad scope of what’s now video analytics.
In days past, fire and security and burglar were the two alarm services and now there are all kinds of ways to combine your customers’ needs.
Understanding the type of experience that your customer requires is not something that you can ask off of a questionnaire. You have to really understand what their needs are.
To answer your question about what’s changed is that the breadth of solutions that we can provide and where we can partner with our customers into business applications more than just traditional security applications, that’s what has really changed.
Michael Grady: The scope of our service relationships with our customers has increased over the past few years in tandem with the number and types of threats retailers are experiencing. The emergence of organized retail theft is just one of several issues retailers are dealing with. But when it comes to customers, retailers understand that their protection means preserving a cash revenue stream that may last for years. So when a woman has her purse stolen within a retailer’s store location, she doesn’t “blame” the thief, she blames the retailer for shoddy security. And although the retailer is not liable in any way, the retailer will ultimately suffer when she shops someplace else she feels is safe.
The same goes for the parking lot. If a crime occurs there and the lot is solely dedicated for use by the customers of a single specific store, the store gets blamed for stolen cars, car break-ins, harassments and assaults. One of the reasons today why retail shoppers and employees alike accept the widespread usage of video surveillance is because it’s predicated on keeping the customer and employees safe, too. Our video decals indicate that the store is using a video surveillance system in order to “help protect our assets, customers and employees.”
Bill Zalud: The economy, the recession – what are your views of that? No. 1 is, there is growing evidence that in a recession we are facing more crime incidents. The other side of that coin is, what do you do about budgets for security?
Keith Kambic: The crimes standpoint, I’ll let Jon address that because he probably sees a little bit more of that on a day-to-day basis. On a budget standpoint, you have to be accountable and, Bill, you said it perfectly when you gave the Target example; the difference between being an old loss prevention person back then is you didn’t have to worry about IT. You didn’t have to worry about budgets. It’s definitely transformed in the last five to 10 years, but with this economy, it has even made it go forward at much of a quicker pace.
Bill Zalud: So then the key is being proactive?
Keith Kambic: Rather than reactive. We talked about this for so many years at ASIS. The CPP tries to do that because it shows that [he is] an all-around business person rather than just a security person. We saw this in the ‘90s where people started to cut back and we never really got those people replaced. I think this mindset is going to be with us going forward.
Bill Zalud: Jon, do you think we will be seeing more crimes because of the recession and at the same time are budgets being squeezed and how can you turn that around?
Jon Lusher: We’ve been doing some very serious analysis of the crime situation since I suppose seven or eight months now. We look at it even more intensely and we’re seeing some things that are interesting and perhaps counter intuitive. There was a thought that crime would just go up a lot with all of this.
One of the problems that we have is the landlord tenant disparity and as landlords, we have not seen a particularly large increase in crime. In fact, our crime in shopping centers has continued to go down over the last six or seven years just as it has in society in general.
Having said that – and not being privy to a lot of the internal statistics for the retailers – we do know anecdotally that property crimes are increasing, not just in shopping centers but in the world at large. There was recently a statement put out by several of the police agencies or associations to that effect.
Bill Zalud: Jamie, Michael, why don’t you hit on this a minute from the standpoint of your clients or your business plans. Are you seeing a focus on saving money, on squeezing money, on doing more things with technologies? How is it playing out in terms of this recession?
Jamie Brennan: For retail and the restaurants, without a doubt the economy is having an effect and we’re all in it together. It comes back to partners – having experienced, skilled individuals focus on areas where they have expertise. People are trying to do more with what they have.
There are opportunities in the marketplace. There is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. There is a portion of that that was in 2008; it’s been renewed as part of the recovery package so there are tax benefits to making decisions today rather than putting them off until tomorrow. There are billions of dollars appropriated for schools and education – a little bit outside of this public area, but not dissimilar in the needs of public-by-day, lockdown-by-night type of environment. We are finding that our representatives have to work a little bit harder to show the value associated with the solutions that we can offer.
Michael Grady: The duty to protect customers and employees is extremely important in normal economic times, but especially in times like this. Stressful times bring out the worst in people and retailers are especially vulnerable to public safety-related crimes. Retail work environments are also highly vulnerable to crimes of domestic violence. So as relationships become more highly stressed through economic uncertainty, those working in retail positions can be hurt or worse while on a retailer’s property.
Bill Zalud: What’s on your wish list, Keith, in terms of technology and support and working with others?
Keith Kambic: On my wish list is to continue to evaluate the IT cameras, the megapixel cameras and move to a more hybrid solution for my facility. In the bigger picture are partnerships that are forged between public agencies and private agencies. There is at least one phenomenal example with Chicago with Virtual Shield, which is the city tapping into the private camera system.
Bill Zalud: Jon, do you have a wish list?
Jon Lusher: I certainly would take Keith’s comments about the public partnership even farther.
Years ago the mall was considered by local municipalities as, “That’s your problem. Deal with it.” We have to pay for police and they were frankly unconcerned about what went on in the shopping center, but there is a much more enlightened viewpoint out in their world now and there is a more enlightened one in ours – where our security people have to overcome that mall-cop garbage and help the public sector understand that there are professionals out there.
In my young man’s tenure in this business, I have seen it improve hundreds of percentages to have professionals like Keith involved, whereas it used to be the guard that locked the door. We have security professionals who know how to relate to the law enforcement people and we need to continue to do that.
So my wish list there is that both the public sector and private security folks not just recognize the need for that liaison and not just give it lip service, which for many years was the case, but to really get into their sectors.
As far the technology, my wish list would be that the non-security people – the clients, the integrators, the sales people, particularly the clients – begin to understand the technology a lot better than they do now, because we can’t sell the ideas if they are resistant to them. I would wish that people within those sectors continue to become much more aware of what the security business is and what the individual client’s business is, and for the clients to understand what the security world is all about.
We have some very sophisticated people who don’t get it in term of what the ROI can be for security and
Bill Zalud: Over the last year a common thread has emerged from my interviews with integrators as well as end-users that expectations many times are higher than the reality of technology?
Jon Lusher: They are unreasonable. It is what we call the CSI affect.
I have seen a study, for instance, which says only in approximately 30 percent of the cases where a camera is present is it of any use in term of identifying a crime because if it’s a PTZ, it’s in the wrong place. If the light is too low, you don’t get a good picture. If the guy is wearing a hat, you can’t see his face.
But the user, the client very often thinks, “I got a camera there, why didn’t I get what I needed?” The expectation are in many cases entirely too high.
Bill Zalud: Let’s wrap things up in terms of wish lists and how a top-notch integration company looks at what is coming down the pike and how they evaluate it?
Jamie Brennan: That’s a loaded question; you have product and wish list in there.
I think we’re on a good path and I would just wish that the security professional continues to improve and evolve in order to broaden partnerships among all the stakeholders, both public and private.
Michael Grady: We hope to keep up the great level of communications we have with our national retail customers and have put a number of things in place to deal with their shrinking loss prevention staffs. Our core concentration until the economy returns will be to assist them by adding new technologies and through the help of our well-experienced staff.