Professionally trained security. Check.
Minimal impact on taxpayers. Check.
A steady, visible presence. Check.
Greater coordination between police and mall businesses to reduce and prevent crime. Check.
The new deal reached between the town of Guilderland and Crossgates Mall to improve security in the wake of several violent incidents involving large numbers of people at the shopping center is certainly an improvement over the existing security operation, which has largely been ineffective in stopping these highly visible events.
Under the long-overdue arrangement announced Tuesday, Pyramid Management Group, the owners of the mall, will pay the town of Guilderland to hire two new police officers who would be dedicated to patrolling the mall.
The three-year contract includes the mall paying the officers’ salaries; town taxpayers will pick up the cost of their benefits.
Also as part of the new security plan, the mall and local police will become more actively involved in security with mall tenants and will maintain a more visible and permanent presence to prevent and discourage problems.
Essentially, they’ll be undertaking the shopping-mall version of “community policing,” which has helped reduce crime and build partnerships between police and citizens in area communities.
While the town agreeing to pick up the cost of the new officers’ benefits isn’t ideal from the taxpayers’ point of view, it does seem fair, given that it could help reduce the need for additional police responses to the mall and given that the officers assigned to the mall can be pulled off mall duty to respond to incidents off-site. Taxpayers will derive a benefit from the addition of the two new officers to the police force, at a reduced cost.
Having actual town police officers assigned to the mall could improve outside police response times and coordination of efforts in the event of a large incident.
Also, the fact that it’s a three-year contract gives police and the mall time to put the plan into place and make adjustments, as well as gives both sides time to evaluate its effectiveness. And since the contract is limited, the town can renegotiate or cancel if it doesn’t work out for taxpayers during that time.
The ultimate goal of any security plan should be to ensure the safety of shoppers, mall staff and the community.
This new deal is a step in the right direction that addresses existing security issues without overburdening taxpayers.
We’ll all be watching to see if it works.