It runs only 4.2 miles long, but it’s the economic engine of the entire state of Nevada. The Las Vegas Strip is arguably one of the most popular destinations for tourists world wide. Nineteen of the world’s 25 largest hotels by room count are on the Strip, with a total of more than 67,000 rooms.
All of which makes the city a potential terrorist threat – the same as other large tourist destinations throughout the U.S.
Enter one of the most successful public-private partnerships in recent years: the “See Something, Say Something” campaign in place at MGM Resorts International, which operates 10 properties on the Las Vegas Strip. The campaign is an adaption of the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign that was originally put in place by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2002, and later adopted by the Department of Homeland Security. DHS has been slowly spreading the message to the Mall of America, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Amtrak, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Wal-Mart and sports and general aviation industries.
As the name suggests, the campaign’s goal is to garner the public’s help in reporting suspicious activity to thwart terrorist activities or other crimes.
“In today’s environment, resort security is everyone’s business. All employees, regardless of level, have a role to play in keeping their city, guests and their colleagues safe. That’s why we created this campaign for our properties. ” says Tom Lozich, MGM Resorts Executive Director, Corporate Security and Surveillance, who implemented the campaign for MGM’s properties.
Lozich began his career with MGM Resorts in 2008, after a successful 30 year career with the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. His experience in law enforcement taught him that response is the most important factor to saving lives. Yet in the private sector, he quickly found that prevention is job number one. “If you are just responding to security events you have lost the battle,” he says. “My days are now spent thinking about prevention, because just one event along the Strip could have catastrophic effects for the entire economic vitality of this state.”
From DHS to MGM
In 2009, Lozich began to explore ways to enhance safety at MGM properties. While he understood that there were no specific terrorist threats at the time, the potential was always there. He formed partnerships with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Institute of Security Studies in addition to the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center, a multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency law enforcement center where officers from Las Vegas Metro, North Las Vegas, Henderson, the FBI and other agencies compare notes on suspicious activity reports and search for patterns that has become a model for other large cities in the nation. From those key contacts, Lozich learned about “Nevada’s Seven Signs of Terrorism,” which include:
• Information gathering
• Testing security (or probing)
• Planning (acquiring supplies and funding)
• Suspicious behavior
• Rehearsal or trial runs, and
• Getting into Position
“I felt that our employees needed to know about those signs,” he says. “But I needed a way to implement it.” He adopted the “See Something, Say Something” slogan and campaign from the DHS, rebranded it with a red eye new logo and white lettering and reworked it to be specific to MGM Resorts International properties.
Starting with new hires through an employee orientation, and working in partnership with the human resources, training and internal communications departments, he educated employees on the campaign goal through a 14-minute video funded by a grant from the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center. “That was the easy part,” he says. “The next challenge was getting the message to incumbent employees.”
To do so, he worked with gaming industry leaders to identify six job positions at the casinos; positions that would have the most interaction with casino guests. He kept in mind that he had only about five minutes of an employee’s “pre-shift” time to educate them. “There are positions at each property that have the greatest opportunity to see as much as a security officer does, such as valet, bell persons/baggage handler, guest room attendants/housekeeping, porters, guest services receptionists and engineers. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department identified transportation (taxi, limo, shuttle bus) as a seventh interactive position,” he says.
The quick but information packed education sessions included possible terrorism behavior, activities and items. “It’s not about singling anyone because of their gender, race or age,” Lozich stresses. “Yet we also respect that our employees know their work environment better than anyone.”
The education was tailored to each job position. For example, a poster for a bell person might include information on luggage with exposed wires, while the communication tools for housekeeping includes information on drawings or blueprints that they might find while cleaning a guest room. And posters wouldn’t necessarily work for valet staff, as they are constantly on the move. “For our valet staff, we developed calling cards that include a reminder of the behaviors to watch for,” Lozich says. “The environment dictates the materials used.”
Next, messages were displayed on large video screens at employee entrances at MGM Resorts International properties, articles in a daily company employee enewsletter and the “Seven Signs of Terrorism” list in employee safety manuals. In September 2010, MGM Resorts International shared the “See Something Say Something” logo brand to the Las Vegas community.
Recently, Lozich increased the campaign’s educational component to warehouse and mail room staff. Last December, mailroom and warehouse employees received specialized training from a bomb squad technician. The trainer showed employees samples of homemade explosive and incendiary devices and educated employees about caution and common sense.
Future goals for the Metro Police Department’s community include expanding it to Las Vegas city billboards and car bumper stickers. Lozich is also going to begin to train property chefs and food and beverage employees on product and food tampering.
“For this campaign to work, you need to do more than just put up a poster,” Lozich says. “If you want to cash in on the strength of your employees, you have to give them information. The bottom line is that today, we are getting in front of threats and educating our employees,” Lozich says. “Yet we are in this for the long haul.”
Public and Private: The Benefits of Collaboration
Editor’s note: Brian H. Reich, CPP, Chairman of the ASIS Law Enforcement Liaison Council, shares why it’s crucial that the public and private sectors collaborate on security. The ASIS International Law Enforcement Liaison Council (LELC) works to foster relationships that strengthen businesses while at the same time aiding the public sector’s ability to protect and serve. The LELC Interpol committee, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children initiative, Transitional Training initiative are just a few of the many success stories to date. For more information on becoming involved, visit http://www.
By Brian H. Reich, CPP, Chairman,
By definition, “Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals — for example, an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature – by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.”
Presently, our nation and our world are facing increasing challenges to sustain a vibrant economy, secure our infrastructure against terrorism and provide the general provisions for the health and welfare of our people. As our government and others increasingly find themselves facing unique problems never before addressed, the public has demanded a level of service that is able to fulfill their needs and shield them from the ubiquitous threats common among all people.
More than ever, it is vitally important that our leaders execute their duties through a paradigm of “collaboration.” We can no longer expect our local police department, fire department, airport security, emergency medical service, schools or branches of the Federal Government to provide the solutions to the multitude of challenges we face. Collaborative efforts between the public sector and the private sector have never been more important in order to serve our needs. Moreover, collaboration “within” agencies themselves is also a requirement if we seek to achieve our goals. All too often phrases such as, “We can call them if we need them,” and “That’s our job not theirs,” “We have been doing this the same way for twenty years,” and the ever popular “If it ain’t broken don’t fix it,” have served as obstacles for success and catalysts for the untimely death of innocent victims and significant financial loss to the public and business communities. Fortunately, times have changed and we have made great strides in the public sector embracing new ideas, new technology and new partnerships.