MANCHESTER — Visitors to the Mall of New Hampshire last week encountered the usual end of summer sights — back-to-school shoppers, kids reconnecting with classmates, and the usual lunch and dinner crowd.
It was the 20-foot tower in the parking lot that caught some by surprise.
Looking like the sort of structure television lifeguard Pamela Anderson would emerge from on the TV show Baywatch, mall managers said the tower is the latest tool to ensure the safety of shoppers.
“It gives our security people a great vantage point, from that location, over our parking lot area,” said Mall of New Hampshire General Manager Jack Toscano. “We're confident that it can be an effective deterrent to crime at our location.”
The mobile security observation tower, has previously been deployed at Simon Malls properties in Massachusetts. The tower is used as part of a partnership with AlliedBarton Security Services.
The tower, which Toscano said is very mobile and easily assembled, can be raised to a maximum height of 20 feet. It sits on wheels and can be moved to different locations outside the mall.
“It's really an elaborate scissors-lift,” said Toscano. “It puts us above the crowd, with a 360-degree view of the lot.”
Atop the tower sits what looks like a small room with tinted windows on all sides. There is also a small deck, so the person manning the tower can watch the lot either from inside the structure or out. Toscano said the tower has no security cameras on it, and will be staffed by mall security personnel.
“There will only be a person up there watching the lot,” said Toscano. “No one is videotaping or filming.”
The tower should help prevent crimes like car thefts or break-ins from occurring at the mall, but Toscano said there was no recent surge in any types of crime at the Mall of New Hampshire that led to the local deployment of the tower, the first of its kind.
“It's deployed on a rotating schedule, and it was just our turn,” said Toscano.
Manchester Police Lieutenant Maureen Tessier reports there have been 199 calls for service at the mall to her department since January, but she isn't aware of any trend or rise in a particular type of crime occurring there.
“I'm sure the majority of those calls were for assistance inside the mall, for things like shoplifting,” said Tessier. “Calls for thefts from cars, or thefts of cars, in the parking lot there are infrequent. Once in awhile we get a call for a stolen vehicle being dropped there.”
Toscano did not say when the tower is scheduled to be disassembled and transported to another Simon Malls site.