One of the tricks, says Allied-Spectaguard's Jim Joly, is to keep a center secure while removing the armed-camp veneer. "We've gotten away from the cops and robbers mentality," says the Boston-based vice president of mall services.

Security now is good public relations.

"We commissioned a national survey in 1998," Joly says. "Respondents said they feel most safe inside a store, and least safe in the parking lot."

Good security ranked third in mall choices - running close behind ease of parking and choice of store tenants. Poor security topped the list of reasons not to shop at a particular mall.

"Lighting is key to a perception of security," Joly says. "Patrols and code blue phones are next in importance."

Joly and others tend to agree that the best security comprises all of the above. That is, electronic surveillance, live safety officers on foot and in vehicles, and some kind of "telephone" system working together to meet public needs and expectations.

And while some pundits say shopping center security has a tendency to be low-tech and not very cutting-edge, sophisticated equipment is available and being used successfully with the help of well-trained people either on-site or off the premises.

Seeing is believing "We give sight to a business," says J.C. Amini, senior vice president of EyeCast.com, an application service provider in Herndon, Va. EyeCast technical services allow managers or developers to view stores around the country in a real-time fashion via the Internet or a private dedicated circuit. The management benefits may be obvious: How do displays look? Is staff adequate for customer traffic? How are customers responding to various aspects of the store?

Real-time observation also plays an important role in store security. Amini says EyeCast applications greatly expand the uses of existing CCTV systems. "Our products are compatible with most composite video equipment.

"And, we provide end-to-end service," he says. Technicians are always available. EyeCast has invested in a multimillion-dollar data center which stores customer videos on mainframe systems. Customer fees are based on how much archiving of information they require and how many hours of recording is done each month. The company is responsible for maintaining and upgrading its system.

EyeCast recently signed an agreement with Sensormatic Electronics Corp., Boca Raton, Fla., to test EyeView, an on-demand video (CCTV) management system with Internet access. Sensormatic provides electronic security systems to retail, commercial and industrial markets. Another company specialty is integrated source tagging, a process in which consumer goods manufacturers apply anti-theft labels at the point of packaging or manufacturing.

Sensormatic's manager of product sales support for CCTV, Peter Schmidt, says advances in digital video recording have pushed this technology to the forefront of CCTV surveillance, adding, "VCRs will become dinosaurs."

Recording events on disks with four- to eight-hour capacities allows users to slide those disks in and review them, and quickly pinpoint an incident by calling it up by date and time. Recording onto off-the-shelf hard drives provides a user with up to 600 hours of video. Huge capacities free users from having to have equipment constantly attended.

"Our best product is the Intellex ($9,995 for a 16-camera set-up)," says Schmidt. "With this equipment, you can use a mouse to draw a square around an area you want to protect, like the cash office door, and set up an alarm triggered by motion or light."

For more complete information, the system not only records the act itself but also captures the preceding 60 seconds, he says. Users can make video copies of incidents to give to the police.

Other advances available through Sensormatic include cameras with 22X optical zoom and cameras that can see in the dark.

If the technology sounds complicated, not to worry. Sensormatic has customer service specialists who will train equipment operators or will train a trainer, Schmidt says.

Pan, tilt, zoom Westec Interactive Security in April introduced its Westec PTZ Camera for remote management and interactive security.

"The PTZ stands for pan, tilt, zoom," says Michael Upp, vice president of marketing and business development for the Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm. "It provides extensive site coverage and detail from a single camera."

The new camera has a 180-degree view, capturing images from an entire site, which are visible to a remote manager using Westec's InTouch Manager software. The manager dials into the site and can take control of the PRZ camera, which has the ability to zoom in and read something as small as a price tag.

Westec security services feature the company's Visual Command Center (VCC) where trained staff can see and respond to emergencies when signaled by the retailer.

Two-way audio and video equipment gives the Westec professional in the command center the opportunity to witness a situation and intervene.

"Our system is both reactive and proactive," says Upp. "It is reactive when a store employee pushes a button or pendant, and it is pro-active in that it can provide video tours for monitoring a site from two to 10 times a day."

>From the command center, the Westec staff member can listen and observe an >emergency situation before intervening. If necessary, he or she can notify >the police and continue to watch via the camera to further describe what is >happening.

There are 30 workstations at the VCC with two screens at each. One features the video of the scene and the other provides background information on the store. "VCC is the core of what we do," Upp says. "The level of service provided is key. We have stringent hiring and training standards."

Upp says today's digital cameras provide a much clearer video and video playback.

New cameras and real time website access through them are changing the business, says Betty Garrett, director of marketing for Chevron Guard Services in Gardena, Calif. "We soon will be offering discrete cameras in strategic areas that will be monitored on a computer screen off-site," she says.

Philips Communications and Security has upped the ante with its see-everything e-dome(TM) digital dome camera.

"Placed discretely but not covertly, this camera takes in 360 degrees of a room," says Nancy Anderson, a spokeswoman for the company in its Lancaster, Pa., office. "It records everything using MegaPixel imaging technology and digital recording, but the product looks like a photograph. It is not distorted."

Fiber optic data transmission improves CCTV performance, the company says. Philips designs and manufactures audio and visual products, she says. Companies such as ADT and Security Link do the monitoring.

Walking the walk "I don't think we'll ever get away from human intervention," says Sensormatic's Schmidt.

Valor Security Systems believes equipment cannot replace people. "We need sophisticated technology as a complement or supplement to people," says Tom Walton, vice president of operations for the Marietta, Ga.-based company. "Devices can't give customers directions or compassion to an injured person."

With the advances in technology and its increased affordability, it is being used more by shopping centers and malls - venues that tend to be tail-end users of technology, Walton says.

Technology is helping to improve the work of live guards. Staff may carry hand-held devices that read bar codes or magnetic strips, documenting where individuals are physically during the course of their workday. Some devices have keypads for on-site reporting.

Allied-Spectaguard sees guard services as excellent sources of public relations. "Security officers may be the first point of contact between a customer and a shopping center," says Joly in the company's Boston office. They not only meet and greet, they promote security awareness by doing things such as providing handouts with safety information. Shopping security tips are especially appropriate during the holidays when shopping traffic is thick.

"We may assist an individual store in the event of a mishap, but we don't do loss prevention, apprehending shoplifters," Joly says. "Each store is responsible for its own area."

Joly points to the value of combining low- or lower-tech devices with public safety officers. Well-marked patrol vehicles give a sense of security to parking lots. Golf carts work, too, and might even be used to escort patrons to their cars. And, Spectaguard has found that shoppers like to see security personnel on quiet, maneuverable bicycles.

IPC International is a metropolitan Chicago company specializing in security staff and consulting services for shopping centers. In addition to public safety officers, IPC provides statistical reporting services of unusual incidents, both criminal and non-criminal, says vice president Jonathan Lusher.

"We will also help plan buildings to make them both secure and appealing," Lusher says.

The growth of entertainment centers in or beside shopping centers and the revitalization of older downtown centers are presenting their own challenges to security advisers and providers, he says. For example, "The Shops at Sunset Place in Miami occupy four city blocks," Lusher says.

Shopping center crimes tend to reflect society, says Lusher. Theft against patrons may not be as prevalent as credit card fraud or shoplifting. But whether it's seen as a 1,200-pound gorilla or an 800-pound one, people still fear crime,he says.

Got it? Flaunt it! The Mall of Louisiana in Baton Rouge is proud of its security operation and puts it in full view of shoppers - albeit, behind plastic glass.

"We have 27 cameras and monitors," says mall security director Bob Harrison. Digital recorders leave information on computer hard drives with enormous capacities. Whenever Harrison or a staff member needs to double-check on an incident, they enter date and time and get instant feedback.

The former casino security specialist is enthusiastic about the Sensormatic Intellex system's ability to pre-set individual cameras. He can tailor surveillance at the 1.3 million sq. ft. mall for weekdays and weekends, days and nights. The system features motion detection capabilities for areas that can be pre-set.

Customers want to know they are protected. IPC's Lusher says customer safety concerns are greatest when it comes to parking lots and parking structures. Garages are proliferating even in outlying areas as land becomes more scarce. A garage should be an asset rather than a liability, he says.

"Concrete poured in place, not pre-cast, alarm systems and openness are important features," he says. Sound and smell also are perceived by customers. Banners and flags help absorb sound and greater openness dispels echoes. Having a Starbucks or bakery at the edge of a parking structure may replace the damp concrete smell associated with garages with more inviting aromas.

Communication outposts Handicapped-accessible, simple to use, visible and available, phones augment the security system of any shopping venue.

Malls and shopping centers are using exterior call boxes primarily for assistance-type applications, says Tom Davenport, national sales manager for Call 24 Wireless of the RCS Communications Group in Winston-Salem, N.C. They give patrons the opportunity to get help if they are having car trouble or are confronted with some type of life-threatening situation. Employees arriving early or leaving late don't feel as exposed and isolated with call boxes nearby.

Generally located on the outsides of buildings, on poles in parking lots or in parking structures, wireless call boxes alert field and dispatch personnel and provide them with the location of the Call 24 station being used. The system is activated by the push of a button.

"Ours give voice alerting," says Davenport. "Call 24 operates on licensed two-way radio systems, compared with cellular or hard-wired telephones."

The system features two-way voice communication, hands-free listening, the ability to manage multiple calls and to reset stations from portable, mobile and/or base radio control.

Customers purchase the equipment which, Davenport says, functions up to 10 years before reconditioning. There are no monthly fees.

Wireless communication is frequently paired with cameras which may provide visual and audible surveillance. But, he says, currently it is more expensive to see than communicate (hear) when considering mobile wireless monitoring of security systems. Call 24 specializes in mobile monitoring of communication systems. Currently the mobile monitoring of CCTV systems may not be economically feasible for many shopping centers, Davenport says.

Products from Chicago-based Talk-A-Phone are available with auxiliary input and outputs to integrate with CCTV, blue light/strobe signals, scream sensors and other devices. A built-in auto dialer is capable of calling multiple numbers in case the first number is busy or there is no answer. With Talk-A-Phone products, users push a button once; the resulting communication is hands-free. The systems use regular phone lines of PBX and do not need special batteries or other power supplies.

In public settings such as shopping center parking areas, the high visibility and distinctive appearance of Code Blue speakerphones give employees and customers a greater sense of security, says Gail Racelis, a spokesperosn for the Holland, Mich.-based company.

"Code Blue believes that the perception of safety is just as important as the reality for both shoppers and employees," Racelis says. The fear is of not being covered rather than of an immediate danger.

"Our most popular unit is the CB I with pedestal design," she says. "The CB II-e is a stainless steel unit designed for interior or exterior wall-mounted applications. The CB II-e housing incorporates a combination beacon and high-powered strobe with a top-quality speakerphone."

The company's CB VIII is the unit for pole and/or wall-mounted applications. It is specifically designed for areas that do not have accessible power and phone lines. It can be ordered with the optional remotely mounted combination beacon and high-powered strobe.

Code Blue speakerphones have two sources of power, says Racelis. One powers the speakerphone communications and a second powers the electronics of the instrument itself. This prevents any problems from insufficient phone line power. For added security, Code Blue speakerphones have a battery backup that will keep the speakerphone operational even if there is a loss of power to the unit, she says. The Code Blue speakerphones have the option of two auto dialers, a keypad for dialing out, voice identification chips and cellular converters.

Only as good as . . . Security systems are only as good as the people responsible for them. Equipment makers and patrol suppliers are working hard to recruit, train and hang onto staff. Their incentives include opportunities to advance into management slots, retirement plans, competitive wages and health insurance.

"Turnover is an issue that has plagued many companies," says Joly.

"If you are always recruiting and training new people, you don't have time to strategize," he says.

And it takes a long period of time to build a good professional reputation, says Tony Isabel, director of retail services with Command Security Corp., Hartford, Conn., a full-service guard service provider which serves a number of industries, including retail.

"Security is a love-hate relationship," Isabel says. "Managers don't want to put too much in the budget yet you need security for emergencies."

Partnering makes sense. Many shopping centers and malls still have their own security forces. Isabel says they could reduce their liability and get a partner by contracting with an outside company.

Security staff are likely to be the first and last people one sees when shopping, he says, so it is important that they have good people skills.

"When hiring, we use a different screening approach," Isabel explains. "We think in terms of words instead of night sticks.

"While you can train most people to write reports and use a fire extinguisher, you can't teach personality. We look for interpersonal skills in applicants."

It's good business Security is good business, those in the field agree. Mall visitors expect to shop in a secure environment. Both visible and hidden high-tech and low-tech means - from a friendly guard saying good-night to an unseen surveillance camera recording activity - are necessary and are welcomed by retailers and shoppers alike.

Employees need to know it's there.

Mall and shopping center developers or managers understand its importance and want to provide a safe shopping and work environment while keeping a close eye on operating expenses.

Which way to go?

Hire or contract for a security force?

Install closed-circuit television?

Check out the latest and best cameras and recording devices?

Try Internet surveillance?

Position customer assistance or emergency phones around the perimeters of the property?