Homeland Security and Public Safety

Behavior Profiling Redefines Security at the Mall of America

RAM officers look for behaviors or objects that are not considered normal in the mall. And once something suspicious is observed, RAM officers look into the situation further and if it involves a person, they conduct a security interview to get more information. “Here it’s very different because in an airport setting you are somewhat expected to answer some questions, especially in Israel where everyone has to go through an interview session before they board a flight,” Rozin said. The interview techniques had to be adapted to fit the public environment of the mall including how RAM officers approach people and obtain cooperation as well as the way they ask questions. The principles of interviewing are maintained and what officers are looking for are the same, but the method differs.

Is observing behavior and talking to people more effective than a security measure like using metal detectors? Rozin believes so, highlighting what he said are the two main factors that create acts of violence: intent and means or weapons.

“If you look through the years both in the United States and overseas, you see that the weapon itself as a factor has constantly been evolving and changing,” he said. “Bad guys have the ability to outsmart technology like metal detectors, X-ray machines, whatever is out there and come up with a weapon they can get into the secure environment and use to attack.”

Ultimately the Mall of America’s RAM program seeks to deter people with harmful intentions from coming to the facility. Rozin said technology, like metal detectors, doesn’t necessarily deter someone; instead they just pose a challenge. “What creates true deterrence is an unpredictable system — a security system that is there and looking for intent constantly,” he said.

And this highlights the importance of the security interviews. Asking the right questions at the right time is a problem for anyone with harmful intentions, according to Rozin. In one example of how the right questions can unravel a person’s lies, during a security interview, RAM officers identified a man who had been going onto military bases, although he wasn’t in the military.

Reynolds said that a couple of years ago, two RAM officers were nearing the end of their shift and walking down a parking ramp when they passed a man wearing a Marine Corps uniform who was waiting for the elevator. The RAM officers continued walking down the parking ramp until one said he got a weird feeling about the man in uniform and the other agreed. They found the man still waiting for the elevator, identified themselves and asked if they could talk to him. Reynolds said they asked him if he was in the military and he said he was a sniper. A RAM officer asked what his longest shot was and he didn’t know. They went on to inquire about the rifle he used and he didn’t know answers that they thought he should have. The officers identified the man’s car and saw an Air Force uniform in the backseat as well as a U.S. Department of Defense sticker on the vehicle.

The police were called and the Defense Department sticker was identified as legitimate, but as the interview continued, the man’s story fell apart. “It turned out he was a runaway and his guardians were retired members of the military,” Reynolds said. “As a dependent of a retiree, you’re given an ID card that lets you on military bases and [gives] access to a place called clothing and sales where you can buy uniforms.” The man had created a false identity by going onto bases and listening to the conversations of military members.

Securing the Mall of America isn’t strictly an internal function. The security department has created a “solid” relationship with the Bloomington Police Department, said Reynolds acknowledging that as a private entity, the mall has limitations and must rely on other law enforcement. Local agencies become involved when the security interview reaches a point at which additional information is needed or if someone provides a fraudulent identification card. In addition, the mall has provided awareness training to law enforcement officers on the RAM program and its security procedures, which Reynolds said makes things run more smoothly when they are called to the mall. “Certainly a big piece on that is to be able to articulate to the responding police officer why we called the police over.”

Reynolds also attributes the program’s success to the use of red teaming, where a scenario is created that should get the attention of a RAM officer. Indicators are set up in an area and the officer is watched to see how he or she responds and how the interview process goes. Reynolds said red teaming is critical because the program is relatively new (it’s been in use in the Mall of America for about five years) and the testing process not only helps him know if something isn’t being taught properly, but it also ensures that the officers are always aware of their surroundings.

Another aspect that’s been key to the program’s success has been enlisting the help of everyone who works for the mall — from sales clerks to janitors. Reynolds said they are the subject-matter experts of their areas and notice when something doesn’t match typical behavior in that setting.

“We would not be as successful as we are without utilizing all of the different entities, whether it be other departments or, even to a degree, guests,” he said. “We have guests that come to us and tell us when something doesn’t look right.”

Reynolds has presented the program to a diverse range of groups, and Rozin is now working as a consultant to educate others about behavior profiling and how it could fit into their security processes. “We want people to know about this program,” Reynolds said. “We want this to be the new industry standard.”

Elaine Pittman  |  Managing Editor

Managing Editor Elaine Pittman has nearly a decade of experience in writing and editing, having started her career with The Coloradoan daily newspaper in Fort Collins, Colo. Elaine joined Emergency Management in 2008, and she can be reached via email and @elainerpittman on Twitter.