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Nine ways technology is impacting your manned security force






Weingarten Realty Deploys Manpower Management System

As director of corporate security for shopping center owner and developer Weingarten Realty, Bill Strother's responsibilities extend to more than 400 properties. When serious situations occur, he needs immediate information in order to take actions that will mitigate damage and assure Weingarten Realty's tenants that the company is doing what it can to provide an environment where their safety and that of their customers is a priority.

The former system of reporting such events - which could occur anywhere across the three time zones of the 23 U.S. states in which Weingarten Realty operates - was paper-based, manually filed or passed up the chain of command by security team members.

"Information is power," the former police officer says. "But if a security officer forgot to notify his supervisor, or the supervisor decided not to call me at 2 a.m., because, in his estimation, it wasn't that severe and nothing needed to be done immediately, there were unnecessary delays."

Things came to a head when he was going through incident reports on his desk one day and learned about a significant event for the first time - two or three weeks after it had occurred. Strother was aware that other actions could have been taken, if he had known about it sooner.

He called G4S, his main security provider. G4S has had a national contract to provide secure solutions at 90 percent of Weingarten Realty retail properties since 2001.

When G4S determined the perfect solution to speed up the transmission of information was not available, they created it. The result was the introduction of Secure Trax, a security management enterprise software platform enabling end-users to have real-time feedback on what is happening in their businesses. The system uses customized PDAs to revolutionize incident reporting.

What began as a digital reporting device slowly developed, stage-by-stage, into a mobile phone with GPS tracking added, as well as having a camera, e-mail functionality, text messaging, a panic alarm, time-and-attendance recording and the ability to read bar codes as part of an advanced guard tour and facility inspection system.

For three years, Weingarten Realty and G4S tested the system, refining and improving it, before it was unveiled to the industry and began its roll-out to other customers.

The system has exceeded Strother's initial demands and provides him with new risk management tools. Now, for example, G4S custom protection officers can use the system to capture images of reported problem areas - from pot holes and leaking sprinklers to abandoned cars - forwarding them from their PDAs via e-mail to Weingarten Realty's property managers, who then send the pictures on to contractors, speeding up response times and reducing the threat of costly litigation in some cases.

"We had a safety awareness meeting at one of our shopping centers and someone complained that they never saw the security officer who was supposed to be patrolling," Strother recalls. "I took out my computer, pulled up the Website, went to the previous day and showed them the tracking of that officer, which is recorded via the Secure Trax geo fencing and tracking capability. It showed he had covered that entire center and he couldn't have done it any better. The center's management and its tenants were impressed that we had that capability and it restored their confidence in the security arrangements."