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ORLANDO-Heightened security was the main focus at the three-day, 1,000-delegate conference of the International Council on Shopping Centers which ends today at the Orange County Convention Center and the Rosen Convention Center Hotel.

National mall operators and owners heard security and safety consultants suggest added drills to protect customers and properties.

Among them: Make hourly checks for suspicious packages; inspect roofs, service entrances and other access points several times daily; probe all delivery vehicles carefully; prohibit overnight parking on the mall lot and ban all parking immediately next to buildings.

Other new security measures discussed were the use of metal detectors, heat sensors and biochemical sensors. Most delegates, however, said their budget constraints don’t allow them to experiment with the newer, more expensive equipment.

Delegates said they already are adding extra security staff and overtime shifts but are not keen on arming their guards because customers may be driven off by such an appearance. That perception, however, is not shared by customers and tourists arriving at airports where armed National Guard troops are in plain view, delegates agreed.

Customer traffic is returning to normal levels at most regional malls, the conference was told. But pranks and hoaxes continue to frustrate mall property managers. An Internet hoax alleging terrorists would strike numerous malls on Halloween, Oct. 31 has been investigated by the FBI on its Web site, www.fbi.gov.

Among delegates attending and speaking at the conference were David Levenberg, vice president/security, General Growth Properties, Chicago; John L. Gerdes, vice president, asset management, L&B Group, Dallas; Lawrence A. Fedorka, general manager, Westfield Shoppingtown at Garden State Plaza, Paramus, NJ; and Tom Walton, Southeast regional vice president, Allied Security Inc., King of Prussia, PA.

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