MANY merchants feel shoppers will go where they feel...

Salmagundi

December 07, 1993

MANY merchants feel shoppers will go where they feel safest. In an effort to get the shopper into the malls, the Governor's Executive Advisory Council recently held a conference on security programs for mall merchants. "Operation Safe Shopper" produced a three-page list of tips and techniques for improving mall security.

The list begins with the obvious: "Always lock doors," and "Conceal valuables." It then proceeds to stress several useful ideas, such as letting the public know that undercover officers are present at the malls. But the conference made its truly groundbreaking work in its plans for expanding mall security.

First, the program calls for legislation to give more police power to mall security. Second, the conference suggests that city, county and state police officers train and serve as advisers to mall security personnel. Finally, mall security would be enlarged with a volunteer cadre of senior citizens and youngsters.

All this sounds like wishful thinking. Mall merchants will have to convince the General Assembly to give their security personnel increased police powers -- not an easy task. Similarly, police departments have little money or extra time for training and advising mall security personnel.

The plans for teen-agers are equally idealistic. The wish is to "empower kids to act responsibly" through their participation in mall security. Specifically, the aim is to "change the culture and address peer pressure," and "establish belonging/values/leadership." Teens would help with a parking lot watch and carry packages for shoppers. In return, the kids would receive community service credits in their schools. Maybe we're too cynical, but we're not sure that's a compelling incentive.

Operation Safe Shopper has two missions: to make the consumer feel more comfortable while shopping, and to boost holiday sales. But getting this program off the ground before the holiday season ends may be Mission Impossible.

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