A few years ago The Discovery Channel aired a reality series called, “It Takes a Thief.” The show was really cool because it brought security concepts and solutions into America’s living rooms, and did so in an entertaining way. The premise had a former burglar breaking into and ransacking a house while the homeowner watched on TV monitors with the show’s host. For participating, the homeowner would then receive a free security “makeover.” SSI was so enamored with the program that I wrote a cover story on it and teamed with the stars of the show for a keynote at ISC East followed by a meet-and-greet and autograph-signing session for attendees at our exhibit booth. This enterprise really shook up the industry and drew notoriety.
I bring all this up because The Learning Channel, which is part of the Discovery network, is launching a new security-themed reality show this spring (pilot aired this past October) called, “Mall Cops: Mall of America.” Although it is not as directly aimed at electronic security as “It Takes a Thief,” Mall of America’s (MOA) huge staff of security officers do rely on our industry’s tools to help accomplish their mission of keeping the landmark shopping destination safe. MOA’s recent conversion of 300 analog cameras into an IP-based solution landed it on SSI‘s February issue cover with my extensive case study featured inside.
More than 40 million people visit Minnesota’s Mall of America each year.
The article includes a sidebar about the “Mall Cops” TV show, for which I interviewed its co-executive producer, Eric Streit. He shared with me additional details about the show’s special location, what’s involved in the production and MOA’s impressive security force. So here is the rest of that exclusive interview along with several bonus photos.
What inspired this show? Was it the success of the recent Kevin James movie where he plays a mall cop?
Eric Streit: I think, certainly, the success of the film may have played into the title of our series, but the series we’re making is a documentary series about the daily lives of the secured cops. Basically, what our show is that we’re looking at the Mall of America through the eyes of security officers. So, everything they do in their day-to-day life, we’re a part of. Whether it’s lifesaving medical emergencies, whether it’s lost children, shoplifting, disorderly conduct, what we’re doing here at Mall of America is just kind of a fly-on-the-wall observation of the security officers in a professional environment and just watching them do the work that they do. It’s really very fascinating. I don’t think people realize that the Mall of America has better training for their security force than most midsize city police forces. They have a K-9 unit. It’s amazing the training that goes on here. So many of the officers are veterans of the U.S. military, which I think will come as a surprise to a lot of people. There is a certain stereotype when you think security officers for the mall, and these guys don’t fit that at all. I think one of the great things this show is going to do is break that stereotype, turn it on its head and show these guys the professionals that they are.
MOA includes 520 storefronts and a 7-acre amusement park.
Was it always going to be that particular mall? How was that determined?
Streit: When you think of a mall, the first one I think popped into anyone’s mind was the Mall of America. It’s a symbol of malls everywhere; it’s a symbol of America. If you’re going to make a show about a mall, Mall of America is always going to be your first choice. We were fortunate enough to establish a great relationship here. I don’t think we ever considered anything but Mall of America because it’s the iconic mall, not just for the country, but the world.
So does the show focus any closer on certain members, or just whoever?
Streit: Basically, we have not asked the mall to change their operations in any way. We basically show up. We have four crews who are shooting, and whatever officers are on schedule are the officers we’re assigned to follow. Whatever calls