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Mall security guards getting another set of wheels

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston Town Center security guards are ready to roll.

The mall is about to get a second T3 Patroller electric standup vehicle to help guards patrol the parking garages that flank the shopping mecca.

The mall has owned one of the battery-powered vehicles - sort of a three-wheeled version of a Segway - since October 2011, but its use has been limited.

Officials hope to use the second vehicle, which is due to arrive in a couple of weeks, to boost the security presence at the mall.

"We hope to have one on each side in both garages," said Dennis Lewis, director of mall security.

The T3 Patroller gives guards a quick, easy-to-maneuver way to patrol the six levels of the parking garages.

The unit features lights and a siren, and its one-horsepower motor can move at up to 20 mph.

Lewis said that's a bit much for confined spaces.

"We don't operate it that fast, but it could go that fast," he said.

Guards will patrol at a comfortable 8 mph once the second vehicle arrives.

Lewis said the T3 vehicle, which costs about $10,000, gives officers enough of a height boost to see over most cars and trucks.

The vehicle is an eye-catcher as officers glide through the garages.

"It creates a very visible presence," he said. "When you see it, it just grabs your attention.

"We can see people better, people can see us better, so it enhances the security presence of the mall," he said.

While the main job of a mall security

officer is to look out for suspicious behavior, marketing director Lisa McCracken said officers spend much of their time helping customers who can't quite remember where they parked.

She said that often happens when people park at the mall prior to an event at the Civic Center next door. Folks can be in such a rush that they forget where they came in.

"When they pull into the parking garage and don't take note of where they park, they don't realize they're in one of two parking garages," McCracken said.

Because of the mall's symmetrical layout, some are confused about which side they came in.

Lewis said guards are flagged down by people who think someone has made off with their car.  

"They think someone stole their car when they're actually looking in the wrong garage,"

he said.

Lewis said his officers patrol the garages 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even when the mall is closed for holidays, security staff members are on duty.

The mall has been using the T3 Patroller in the Lee Street garage since it was purchased in 2011. With just one unit, only one guard is trained and certified to use it.

With a second unit, Lewis said he would train each member of his garage security staff.

McCracken said guards also place cards on the windows of parked vehicles. The cards let the driver know the area is under guard but also features coupons to mall stores.

McCracken said it's both a marketing technique and a move to give customers peace of mind.

"It's an opportunity to reassure our guests and employees that we have daily security coverage in our garages," she said.

Lewis said his officers are looking forward to receiving the second unit and using them full time.

"The officers love it," he said. "It's comfortable to the rider, and customers love it because it really grabs your attention.

"And it sure beats walking."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-4836.


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