Retail Traffic: To what do your attribute the recent spate of shootings, terrorist threats and attempted suicides at malls?

Mert Price: I don't think it's any more prevalent in retail. Because we're in retail we're more sensitive to it. Events of that type aren't just happening in retail centers. If you look across the spectrum, they are occurring in high schools, office buildings and on street corners. It's not restricted to retail.

RT: Who is ultimately responsible for the safety of tenants, employees and shoppers at a retail center?

Price: It's everyone's responsibility. Mall management, local police and tenants all have accountability. Because mall properties are private property, the management has to be responsible for securing the property. The local police department is responsible for responding to the report of an incident. And, each tenant is responsible for securing their individual store. However, it's everyone's responsibility, shoppers included, to be aware of their surroundings.

RT: When a breach in security occurs who is liable?

Price: The fastest growing litigation in the United States today is negligent security, according to Marilyn Hollier, director of security for the University of Michigan Health Systems. When a security management company contracts to provide security for a property they in effect assume liability for the security of that property.

RT: How do you characterize a trained security guard?

Price: An effective security officer is trained in awareness. By that, I mean, they know what exhibited behaviors would constitute a suspect posing a threat. Because guards must treat everyone equally, they are also trained in cultural sensitivity and diversity, conflict resolution and the use of force.

RT: Average security officer pay is between $8 and $14 per hour and the turnover rate for malls is near 100 percent. Is compensation a factor in the churn among officers?

Price: We pay a lot of attention to the people we recruit, treat them fairly and try to create an enjoyable work environment. In addition to pay, benefits and promotion opportunities help with our retention. Our vice president of operations and senior vice president of corporate relations both started as security officers with Valor.

RT: Has Valor experienced an increase in malls requesting security audits?

Price: September 11 was a wake-up call. Some centers have been expressing interest in a security increase for the peace of mind of their tenants, employees and visitors.

RT: Did you see any commonalities among the centers you evaluated then?

Price: As a whole they all covered the common areas well, i.e., the food court and movie theater. Where I have seen improvement is in the internal rear corridors of the malls. In the loading dock and storage areas, they have installed closed circuit televisions and camera systems. But, if you have the cameras, they have to be monitored.

RT: Has Valor has turned away business because a mall's management wouldn't allocate enough resources?

Price: Yes. However, it is the exception and not the rule. Most property managers understand the cost and requirements for security.

MERT PRICE
Director of Business Development Valor Security Services