At the Frontline: Mall of America Security Director Doug Reynolds

An inside look at how the nation’s premier shopping mall mitigates risks


SIW: Do you still have a lot of the typical retail security concerns like shoplifting or does the fact that the mall is such an American icon make you fearful about terrorism?

Reynolds: Certainly, there is a balance between all of the different aspects (of security) and the ones you could think of, but we don’t forget that sometimes there is price for being a trend setter or you expect that there could be a price for that and you should anticipate that and prepare for it. We do spend money and put resources into counterterrorism. Part of it is also to set that industry standard, be out front and show folks what it is possible. A good example is our active shooter program. We didn’t start that because there was a specific threat to Mall of America, we started it because one of the ideas we had was if we can teach our tenants to go into lockdown and train on that twice a month, there’s no excuse for any other shopping mall in the United States not to be able to do that.

SIW: Through the years, malls have been no stranger to mass shootings with the most recent one taking place in a Portland suburb in December. What do you think is the best strategy for mitigating active shooters in a retail environment?

Reynolds: I think there are a few things. First of all, awareness training for your staff and for your tenants; let people know if something doesn’t fit into their environment to give somebody a call and make that threshold for calling security or law enforcement very low so they feel comfortable doing it. So often after these events when people are interviewed after the fact they say: ‘You know, yeah he seemed weird, I saw him, but I just didn’t want to call someone, I just didn’t think that it was necessary to call.’ If you make that threshold low enough and empower people to make those calls, I think it helps. In addition to that, as I mentioned before, we train twice a month on lockdown drills. It’s a very short drill. The analogy we make is that it’s like fire drills. There isn’t a sixth grader in the United States that can’t do a fire drill, so we make it simple. We sound tones to put people into lockdown, the tenants go into lockdown, they get people into their space, lock their gates, turn off lights, and get out of sight a little bit. When they get the all clear, they come out and the whole procedure takes less than 10 minutes.

SIW: How are you employing behavioral recognition techniques to improve the safety of mall visitors and employees?

Reynolds: What’s interesting about behavior recognition training is if you take the title away from it, there’s not an expert in their field… that doesn’t do that to some degree. They know what normal is in their environment. It’s just again about empowering them to say: ‘Alright, now I’m going to do something about that and I’m going to better define and articulate what is out of place with this setting.’ If you’re watching 12 fish swim downstream and one keeps catching your eye, there’s a reason for that, so it’s just a matter of tuning in and saying why is that one fish different from all of the others? What’s made that one catch my eye? A lot of it is getting to know your environment and the other part is reaching out to other departments. What I know is security, what I don’t know is the ins and outs of our electrical department, maintenance, housekeeping, and those types of areas. Those people know what normal is for them and when you teach them to give security a call and explain when something is out of the ordinary, you can resolve a lot of issues. People come in posing as housekeeping or trying to get access to an area, a lot times those other departments will see it before security does.

SIW: Has the proliferation of organized retail crime had an impact on your security program at the mall or perhaps made you look at your tactics in a new way?