Shopping center public safety service has evolved beyond simply patrolling common areas and giving directions. Today security must focus on a multitude of areas, including protecting guests, deterring criminal activity, enforcing center policies and above all â€“ customer service.
IPC International Corporation is the industry leader in shopping center public safety services. With almost 30 years of experience and more than 400 centers in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Great Britain, IPC is an industry barometer. So when IPC announced their Security Patrol program for the Segway Personal Transporter (PT) in the fall of 2004 it was regarded as a major innovation for the industry.
According to Jade Hirt, National Manager of Staff Development at IPC, the company was looking for a way to enhance the visibility of its officers while aiding patrol techniques and mobility. Prior to the introduction of the Segway PT, Hirtâ€™s options were limited to bicycles, golf carts and a motorized bicycle/cart type vehicle.
â€œFor sometime we had been looking for a mode of transportation that was more maneuverable and center-friendly than a golf cart for patrol duties inside and outside shopping malls,â€ recalls Hirt. With the availability of the Segway PT, IPC proceeded to develop a three-month security patrol beta test of this newly introduced technology.
â€œOne of our clients had also been looking at Segway PTs and requested the beta test take place at one of their centers,â€ stated Hirt. To initiate the trial, Segway Inc. representatives trained key IPC management and security personnel in a full-day seminar. The timing of IPCâ€™s beta test was established to coincide with the busy 2004 Christmas shopping season at one of the largest malls in Houston, Texas. During the beta test IPC evaluated every facet of Segway PT operation as well as its acceptance by the centerâ€™s security officers, tenants and customers. This test allowed IPC to thoroughly study the Segway PT in real world conditions, examining how officers would be able to maneuver through the crowds, stop safely, and see over large areas like a food court. The results of the test confirmed that Segway PTs were a viable and safe security option for the shopping center environment.
From a security standpoint IPC found that the increased visibility of the Segway PT security officers was a major asset. In addition, because officers on Segway PTs stand 8â€ taller they can see and be seen above the crowds especially during very busy periods.
The beta test also validated that in certain situations the Segway PT could greatly improve response times. â€œIn the off hours when the mall was closed, officers were able to respond to an alarm much faster,â€ stated Hirt. â€œAnd being able to respond to a situation quickly can make a big difference in the outcome, whether itâ€™s a life saving event, damage to property or theft.â€
Going beyond the improvement in response time, IPC looked at what officers actually did, and how they were able to perform their duties. The companyâ€™s findings concluded that virtually every officer saw an increase in their capabilities while on patrol.
The trial then moved into a new phase: developing a standardized training program that would allow the Segway PT to be safely operated in any shopping center. â€œWe developed a training curriculum that instructs our officers on the safe and efficient way to use the Segway PT on patrol,â€ said Hirt. â€œAll of our Segway PT officers understand that this is an important tool to help them with their daily security duties to the center and that these machines are not toys.â€