May 1, 2001 12:00 PM

Preventing incidents aimed at tourists, such as those by purse-snatchers or pick-pockets, is a concern here. While there has not been a significant crime problem, we wanted our visitors to feel safe.

When General Growth Properties Inc. (GGP) unveiled its new Stonebriar Centre just outside of Dallas in August 2000, the 1.6 million square foot, two-story enclosed mall was already well equipped with security management tools.

The mall, which has 154 stores plus six anchor stores, has 16 emergency call boxes from Talk-A-Phone, 32 Pelco cameras, three Gyyr digital recorders with built-in multiplexers, and a combination of fiber-optic and twisted-pair wire to help transmit data and images. The data and images are transmitted to a sleek Winsted console equipped with four 20-inch and three 14-inch monitors.

"As part of our new mall design, we plan to incorporate video and call boxes from the beginning," says David Levenberg, vice president of security and loss prevention for General Growth, one of the country's largest developers of regional shopping malls. The company, headquartered in Chicago, currently owns interests in, or has management responsibilities for, 147 regional shopping malls in 39 states.

Building security systems into new malls ! rather than retrofitting once problems surface ! is far more cost-efficient, says Levenberg. Before Stonebriar Centre opened, General Growth had begun retrofitting several centers with CCTV, call boxes and, in some cases, access control. The impact of these systems convinced the company that they should become standard equipment for new malls.

Levenberg says there are several of the company's mall properties that stand out for the quality of their security systems and the impact those systems have had on reducing liability and protecting shoppers. Among them are malls in San Diego, Honolulu and Grand Rapids, Mich.

"At the Chula Vista Center just outside San Diego, we'd been experiencing significant auto theft problems for several years," says Levenberg. "We had tried a variety of approaches ! parking lot lighting upgrades, increased patrols in the parking areas, hiring extra security people and working closely with local police. Still unsatisfied with the number of incidents, we installed a Sensormatic CCTV system at the mall, which had the impact that surpassed the other efforts."

Thirty-six color cameras ! most of them pan/tilt/zoom ! were installed at the one-million-square-foot center, which has approximately 110 stores. Trenches for coaxial cable were built underneath the parking lots of the open-air center. Aerial drops were used to carry the cable from the cameras to a system of junction boxes, or J-Boxes. Each of these boxes holds cable from four to seven cameras and one main cable fans out, carrying data and video to the security dispatch center.

In the dispatch center, four American Dynamics 16-position multiplexers receive the data and video signals, which can be controlled by two Sensormatic VM32 controllers. There are four 21-inch color monitors, two 14-inch color monitors, and five time-lapse VCRs located at the dispatch center.

"Within four to six months, we had reduced auto thefts more than 60 percent," says Levenberg. "Now, several years later, they are down 70 percent to 80 percent."

The cameras are placed on roof corners and, in some cases, on light poles in the parking lot. "We can see adjacent streets, buildings, even across the street," says Levenberg.

The breadth of the cameras' scope enabled security officials at Chula Vista to uncover a surprising cause of an unusually high number of auto thefts ! insurance fraud.

"In reviewing videotape and looking for people who claimed car theft, we saw them walk onto the property. When confronted, several individuals admitted they had either sold their cars or the cars were stolen somewhere else. We have also seen tape of individuals, who later put in theft claims, getting out of their cars and giving the keys to a friend who would drive the car off the premises," says Levenberg. "I believe approximately 30 percent of the reported thefts were fraudulent claims."

In addition to picking up fraudulent claims, the cameras are also a deterrent to auto theft and as an aid in preventing potential incidents. "We can view a larger area and dispatch mobile patrol people as soon as we observe suspicious activity, such as a person driving slowly, or walking around looking at cars it has helped us prevent potential thefts," says Levenberg.

The ability to respond quickly to potential incidents has also enabled management to control criminal activity and better protect tourists at GGP's flagship mall in Honolulu, the 2.1-million square-foot Ala Moana Center. The mall, with 234 stores and six anchor stores, is visited by 3.5 million people a month. "Preventing incidents aimed at tourists, such as those by purse snatchers or pick-pockets, is a concern here," says Levenberg. "While there has not been a significant crime problem, we wanted our visitors to feel safe. With the continued expansion and renovation of the mall, we decided video surveillance would be a benefit."

More than 120 Sensormatic cameras have been installed at the mall, with close to 100 percent coverage in common areas between stores. Cameras on roofs survey parking lots, under parking decks, and most of the service areas, such as truck and loading docks. All but about 20 percent of the cameras are pan/tilt/zoom and all are color.

As at the Chula Vista Center, Ala Mona has aerial-run coaxial cable from building to building, and trenching is used to lay some cable underground. Junction boxes placed throughout the mall receive six to eight cameras each and then send out one main cable each to the dispatch center, where they are connected to multiplexers. Two Sensormatic VM96 controllers are connected to the multiplexers via RS-232 computer ports. There are 14 nine-position American Dynamic multiplexers, each with a 20-inch monitor and VCR, along with three 14-inch color callup monitors and three additional VCRs for playback and recording. There are a total of 17 Sensormatic VCRs.

A Sensormatic graphical user interface (GUI) system installed on one computer can be used to control the cameras with a mouse in lieu of the VM96 controller. "It's really a matter of operator preference," says Levenberg.

The camera system has kept incidents to a minimum, even though traffic has grown.

"The cameras have augmented the security force and enabled us to hold off dramatic increases in manpower," says Levenberg, who notes that the in-house security staff of more than 60 officers, most of them full-time, has grown 40 percent over the last 10 years.

In addition to the CCTV system, the Ala Moana Center also has a Sensormatic access control system which includes 25 proximity card readers located at office and mechanical access points, such as the management and development offices. Roof access, access to electrical systems, and between-floor access points are also covered by this system. Readers are hard-wired to controller panels that accommodate eight readers each; cable emanating from the panels goes to the file server in the dispatch center.

The decision to add access control to the Ala Moana Center was based on the size of the center, the amount of foot traffic passing through the center, and the desire to reduce the administrative burden of using keys to track entry into these areas, says Levenberg.

Access control also plays an important role in keeping GGP's Chicago headquarters secure. The company is the sole occupant of the six-story, 500-employee building it occupies on Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. At the headquarters, a Sensormatic C,Cure 750 access control system uses 42 Motorola-Indala readers. Employees use with Motorola proximity cards, and access is controlled at the main entrance to the building, at the underground garage, and at work areas on each floor, as well as at the health club, in the legal file room, mailroom and computer equipment room.

CCTV and access control systems are routed through a security station in the main lobby. An Aiphone emergency call box system has been integrated with the CCTV system so that if someone pushes a notification button on the call box, that camera point will appear on a lobby security station monitor. Four call boxes are located in the building, two at the parking garage, and one each at the fitness center and loading dock.

With the use of PC Anywhere software, Levenberg and designated assistants can remotely access the main file server which houses the access control system. This system enables them to make changes instantly in authorizations. The software is installed on selected computers, from which the user can dial the main file server via a modem and regular telephone line.

Remote access to the CCTV system has been made possible at GGP's Rivertown Crossings Mall in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Sensormatic's Sensorlink system makes it possible for a user to remotely access the mall's CCTV system. Levenberg uses a laptop to access the PC that controls the video system. "You can choose the multiplexer, the cameras, even record video remotely," says Levenberg.

Recently, Levenberg used this system to view flood damage at the site, along with an adjacent property from which it may have emanated.

"We have used video to reduce our liability in a number of ways, including capturing images that contradicted personal injury claims, as well as the auto theft claims," says Levenberg. "In some cases, we have installed cameras specifically to watch escalators. We have also found some cases where assault claims proved to be fraudulent. And, we have been able to prevent potential thefts, assaults and fights because we could dispatch officers promptly when we view something suspicious over the monitors."

GGP does an audit of each of its properties to determine specific security needs for that property. The audits include analysis of criminal incidents, history of security-related activity, and analysis of statistics to determine whether security activity is up, down or steady.

"This helps us determine our security equipment and manpower needs," says Levenberg, who acknowledges that without such an organized approach it would be difficult to manage security for the company's approximately 147 properties.

This statistical approach, combined with investigative and practical experience, has convinced Levenberg that security systems such as CCTV, call boxes and access control are here to stay at the company's largest and busiest properties.

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