I recently visited with the security chief of a local shopping mall. “Bill” (he did not want to be identified) is a well-educated, professional security manager, his expertise surpassed only by his loyalty and dedication to providing a safe mall environment.

During our visit, Bill explained that a shopping mall is much like a small, enclosed city requiring law enforcement, emergency medical attention and fire response.

On the other hand, Bill said, shopping malls must attract customers even as they provide these services. And shopping malls, like other businesses, don’t want to create bad publicity that would cause customers to feel insecure or uncomfortable. (Imagine how empty your local shopping center parking lot would be if regular customers were told other customers had been robbed while walking to and from their vehicles.)

And therein lies Bill’s biggest problem: How to address security needs while not alarming customers.

One of the most effective tools for thwarting criminal activity is “networking”. Simply defined, networking involves sharing information about suspicious people, vehicles and incidents so that each party in the network can use the information to enhance security efforts.

You’ll find networking in most successful neighborhood watch programs. Bill’s problem (shared by his contemporaries) is that many senior level managers don’t understand the importance of networking or see its value in security management.

Some believe talking about problem situations with other store personnel could cause information to be made public that would create negative perceptions about their establishments.

As a result, many otherwise diligent security officers disregard networking as a security tool. And when networking isn’t practiced, criminals often move and work without interruption.

So what can we do about it? Well, if you are a store owner or manager, or if you are involved in security management, or even if you’re a security-conscious homeowner, don’t forget to network.

In fact, encourage it among your peers and associates.

The resulting decrease in criminal activity is likely to negate the potential for bad publicity. And your customers and neighbors will be more secure if you share information with others. After all, if a serious incident occurs on your property, negative publicity will be hard to avoid.

Remember that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of…”

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