Mall of America is unlike any other shopping venue in the country. In addition to having more than 520 stores and 4.3 miles of total store front footage, the mall is also home to an indoor amusement park and a 1.2 million –gallon aquarium. Just because the mall is as an attraction, however, doesn’t mean it doesn’t share risks common to other retail facilities such as vandalism, shoplifting and other types of crime.
Charged with the task of keeping the mall and its more than 40 million annual visitors safe is Doug Reynolds, who like many of his fellow security executives, didn’t start his career with the ambition of one day being a security director.
“When I sat down with my guidance counselor when I was 17 or whatever age I was, I certainly didn’t anticipate that I would someday be working as a security director here,” explained Reynolds, who began his career in the military. “When I came off of a series of active duty moves, I went back into college and while I was there I was looking for a part-time job – something that wasn’t going to be boring.”
Eventually, Reynolds said he found a good fit working in security at Mall of America. He took a full-time position with the mall when he finished college and after one more deployment overseas, he applied for a promotion and worked his way up the ranks.
“The more I worked for Mall of America, the more I liked it,” he said. “There are things I think we get to do in the security world that law enforcement doesn’t, especially when you’re talking about a big city environment. We’re not responding from crisis to crisis, we actually get a chance to interact with the public, see what they’re all about, hear their stories, where they’re from and that type of thing and I really enjoy that.”
In this “At the Frontline” interview, Reynolds discusses some of the security challenges his team faces and the strategies they use to mitigate risks at the nation’s most high-profile shopping mall.
SIW: How does security differ at Mall of America? Does the fact that it is as much of an attraction as it is a shopping venue make a big difference from a security standpoint?
Reynolds: Absolutely, there are a lot of different things that we have to take into account. We have between 40 and 42 million visitors a year. That averages out to be more than 100,000 visitors per day, so it’s not your typical mall by any means. You’re looking at a decent size city on any given day and with that comes all of the good and the bad. When you get 100,000 people doing anything some of them are going to be making bad decisions and I think that’s truer than if you are in an environment where there’s 5,000 people a day going through. There’s also other things; the amusement park is certainly a unique environment and we also have an aquarium here, so as you develop emergency plans you have to account for what you do when you have people down in the aquarium? What do you do when you have people under seven acres of glass in the amusement park? There are always different challenges, but I think that’s part of the excitement of the job.
SIW: What kind of impact does the sheer size and varying attractions in the mall have on your security program?
Reynolds: We certainly operate on a scale that’s different from a lot of folks in the industry, but there are other aspects to. It’s not just that your average mall maybe has 20 patrol officers and we have 100, but it’s also some of the other things we’ve taken on. We have an active K-9 section and other unique areas like that. Dispatch is a dedicated and full-time position whereas in a lot of places that is just an additional duty for a patrol officer. We have full-time trainers, which from what I’ve seen in the industry is pretty unique here. We also have folks that are dedicated, full-time bike patrol officers that receive special training unique to that position. Because there are so many different things you can do here, there are folks that I’ve seen that are tempted to get into law enforcement, but they get here and they say ‘you know what, this is a job I can see myself doing more long-term’ and they stay here.