Dan Ryan’s story is classic, happy and all-American that those entering the profession can learn from and hope to emulate. “I guess you could say I started at the bottom and worked my way up.” Yes, you could say that Dan, but that would be understatement – Dan’s expertise and perfection have helped him rise through the ranks at a meteoric pace.

“My background in the Military Police as a white hat, patrol MP was a great experience for the private sector. In the 1980s I became a protective service agent in the U.S. Army providing executive protection and travel security to mitigate active threats such as terror against Army leadership. Those threats were very real. During this time I also provided training for MP companies and battalions.” Dan planned to become a police officer, but never quite got there. “I started in 1989 as a part-time officer at the Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale, Illinois.” And his ability to proactively create value through security with a focus on service was obvious.

Dan quickly moved to Assistant and then Security Director at the Hawthorn Mall in nearby Vernon Hills. He later joined GGP as a corporate contract compliance auditor, where he excelled and was promoted to security operations manager. “I have learned valuable lessons from everyone whom I have worked for,” he says.

General Growth Properties is huge and therefore, so is the corporate security role. GGP owns, manages and leases 123 regional malls in the United States totaling approximately 128 million square feet, and it is the second largest retail property Real Estate Investment Trust in the U.S. Their mission statement includes the following: “Provide an outstanding environment and experience for our Communities, Retailers, Employees, Consumers and Shareholders.”

“Yes, our mission is to maintain a pleasant, family-oriented environment,” Dan says. “Security is a critical element of the equation for a successful property. The mall environment is unique, and lots can occur. First, we have a complex community with many tenants, people and events that include measurable risks. We identify both minimal and elevated risks, build security programs around them and measure our results. We have a very high success rate.”

Security’s focus is on monitoring and addressing trending within each property. This has been a very successful program with continuous improvement to drive initiatives on awareness, prevention and response to emergency events.  The success rate is also the result of demanding very high performance from their security officers including their interaction with customers, how they represent the GGP brand, the service they provide and how they deal with and respond to events.

GGP relies on five key security service companies that understand their mission and have custom training programs in place for GGP. For example, Organized Retail Crime is a major risk for retailers. GGP’s custom ORC training program focuses on this specific issue to create a proactive and successful enforcement program.

Assisting with large crowd events is a clear case study of how security helps the mall business succeed. “We assign one of our three corporate security directors to plan and manage events including celebrity appearances, meet and greets, and concerts.”

Each event varies in both possible location and type of event. “Some events are the result of GGP Marketing while others are created by our tenants. That determines if an event is in the mall common area or within a tenant’s store. We work with the sponsor, promoters, the talent’s security team and our security service vendors to ensure a successful outcome. Because malls are not typically designed to host large-scale events, careful thought and preparation has to be done.”

 Who the talent is or what the event is drives the planning, so each event plan has to be uniquely crafted. Understanding that a young male star may attract hundreds of star-struck girls is different than sports figures who tend to attract more aggressive male fans is important for planning. “We follow the talent’s popularity on the Internet and social media as well as view prior appearances on YouTube to understand what a typical appearance entails, from type of crowd to type of performance.”

“I believe I am successful because the company has a broad understanding of security’s value to the overall mission,” Dan says. “Eric Almquist, our senior vice president for asset management administration, is very in-tune with the whole mall ecosystem and security’s importance. We have a great, highly professional team in place that can share the vision with all of our vendors and partners of what the shopping experience should be and what an appropriate security program must be.”

Looking back to his own career, Dan has an eye out for those joining the mall security teams. “Most of our officers join at an entry level but understand they can advance, take on more responsibility and become highly capable officers and ultimately have a career in security management.”

“About every three days we publish a success story. Recently, a child was choking, and an officer used abdominal thrusts to clear his throat. All the shoppers in the food court stood and applauded. Twice, our officers responded to ‘infant not breathing’ calls and in both cases revived and saved those lives. And a 14-year-old girl with a heart transplant went into cardiac arrest, and our officer saved her life. Seeing and feeling the gratitude toward the security team is most rewarding.”


Security Scorecard

  • Annual Revenue: $3 Billion
  • Security Budget: Confidential


Critical Issues

  • Managing Public Events
  • Migration from Analog


Security Mission

  • Corporate
  • Enterprise Resilience
  • Investigations
  • Managing Contract Security Services
  • Physical/Asset Protection (Not for Resale)