Mall Shops for Surveillance System

Mall Shops for Surveillance System By Robert Grossman Since Chicago’s archetype Market Square opened in 1916, shopping malls have been synonymous with safety. Their predictability has been a source of security and, for many, a way of life. People exercise at gyms in the morning, attend movies at night; parents use the mall to baby-sit their teenagers; and children visit with Santa and the Easter Bunny, and cavort in play areas.

That feeling of well being doesn’t come without a cost, however, particularly in a post-9/11 world. Malls have repeatedly been identified as potential terrorist targets and make national headlines when troubled individuals decide to take out their rage in such a public place.

So how do you go about securing a facility that at its heart relies on open access and the unimpeded flow of traffic to accommodate shoppers and tenants?

Mall security provides sort of an “umbrella” of protection. The mall is responsible for securing the common, public space, while individual tenants handle their own security. Anchor stores (larger retailers that draw shoppers to the mall) often have elaborate security systems that conform to corporate loss prevention guidelines, with smaller stores running the gamut from locking gates to sophisticated systems of their own.

Defining this umbrella can be tricky. By nature, shopping malls encompass a lot of physical space and there are lots of entry points, some used considerably less frequently than others. There is essentially a back of house labyrinth of corridors that allow retail goods to be transported from the loading dock to each store without being seen by the public.

At any given time there are one or more stores undergoing renovation that necessitate access by workers after hours. And there are a number of electrical and mechanical rooms that must be secured and protected from vandalism, or worse.

Hamilton Mall, a 1 million-square-foot complex in Mays Landing, N.J., 12 miles outside Atlantic City, recently addressed these needs and challenges.

“Safety is the overriding concern,” explains Bill Schu, general manager for Hamilton Mall. “We had been planning on installing video surveillance and alarm point monitoring for some time, but wanted to do it right. It had to enhance the effectiveness of our security team without becoming intrusive to our guests.”

That basic premise would serve as the foundation for the design, planning and execution of a comprehensive video surveillance solution based on a blend of established and newer technology — and do so for less than originally projected.

Past Experience Pays Off

Hamilton Mall is a joint partnership with Simon Properties Group, the largest mall operator in the country, and Kravco Simon Co., a regional mall operator. Our firm had previously done work for King of Prussia Mall, in King of Prussia, Pa., another Kravco Simon property and one of the world’s largest malls (3 million square feet of retail space).

“We take our responsibility for the safety of our customers and the overall property at King of Prussia very seriously and we have invested in both the technology and the people to do that,” says Robert Hart, general manager of the King of Prussia Mall. “One of our primary roles is to protect unauthorized access to the mall after hours. Individual retailers within the mall then further secure their own space in ways that are appropriate to their own needs.”

So we were very familiar with the particular needs of retail shopping malls. At the same time, our experience with gaming-related projects had led us to some innovative features that we tried at King of Prussia and wanted to repeat at Hamilton.

“While our focus is on effective monitoring and protection for the benefit of our customers, tenants and employees, we also need to be mindful of expenditures,” says John Petruzzi, corporate vice president of security for Simon Property Group. “We’re not just buying technology — we’re buying long-term results.”

An Alternative Approach

Armed with an understanding of the unique requirements of shopping malls and a successful installation at a sister property, we sat down with Schu to capture his specific “wish list” of features and functionality. To our surprise, it turned out to be easier than we expected; the mall already had another consultant involved and liked the system that was originally proposed.

The problem: it was a completely IP-based solution that would break the bank.

“I was looking at having to scale back or defer purchasing, and we knew we needed to get this system installed,” says Schu. “We felt there were too many areas that could invite problems, and while we hadn’t had an incident we didn’t want to wait until something happened to act.”

Our goal was to match the image quality, camera count and feature set of the system that had been previously designed. It had to digitally record images for 30 days, allow for remote monitoring, and include an analog matrix switch for real-time (zero latency) command and control of pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) cameras. We were to do this by providing top-quality products from major manufacturers, installed by union labor and warranted for three years from system acceptance.

The reduced price had to include our consulting fees as well and — here’s the challenge — had to cost roughly 30-percent less than the previously designed system to meet budgetary targets. To accomplish this, we knew we’d have to get away from the IP-based design provided by the previous consultant. While the price of IP-based video equipment continues to decline, unfortunately the infrastructure costs do not. For a facility as large as Hamilton Mall, IP-based video meant using fiber-optic cable, while a hybrid system meant copper.

We’d preserve future upgradeability by using Cat-5e instead of coaxial cable, locating data junction boxes in areas where they could be converted to an IP backbone and moving camera power supplies to the data junction areas, but we would have to rely on analog video.

The data junction areas would be run back to the central control area via 25-pair Cat-5 cable, a topology we used with great success on other projects. An added benefit: alarm contacts could be run back in the same manner, further reducing infrastructure costs. Analog cameras would also prove more cost effective than IP-based units as well, particularly p/t/z units. At the time the system was designed, the state-of-the-art optical zoom (35x with image stabilization) was only available in analog, and performance would be better; lower latency on analog camera control meant a more responsive joystick as far as the operator was concerned. Fixed cameras were smaller, less costly and more attractive, and all cameras would be viewable live at 30 images-per-second, with no dropped frames, delayed call-up or compression artifacts.

Key Features Prioritized

Once the decision was made to go hybrid, with analog cameras feeding networked DVRs, we started adding back features. Mindful of the budget, we created a specification that included a number of alternates. This would allow us to bid the system to a number of vendors and determine, using actual bid responses, the cost of each feature.

Option packages and enhancements included:
— With the advent of YouTube, an Internet-based repository for amateu

Master evidence server

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Security Is Our Business, Too

For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add sales to your bottom line.

A free subscription to the #1 resource for the residential and commercial security industry will prove to be invaluable. Subscribe today!

Subscribe Today!

Get Our Newsletters