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Shopping Malls Are Using Facial Recognition, License Plate Scanning to Improve Safety

Recent attacks and violence at public places, including shopping malls, has not gone unnoted by the retail industry. As Americans head into one of the busiest retail seasons of the year, many stores are testing out everything from camera networks with facial recognition software to security robots to keep shoppers safe.

Homeland Security is working with a number of retailers to test facial recognition software that would flag people with criminal records, ABC News reports. Shopping malls are also testing out software that will scan license plates in the parking lot and notify security if they are registered to anyone on the terrorist watch list.

Mass notifications by phone—which are regularly used for severe weather such as storms and tornadoes—are one of the most common electronic security tactics employed. Pocketstop, a notification software vender, said its business was up 33% over the past year among shopping centers.

Retailers are even testing robotic security guards, with mixed success. The Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California scrapped its robot program through Knightscope after the 300-pound machine accidentally knocked over a toddler in July. Since the incident, the company says it has made upgrades and improvements.

In addition to testing new technology, stores and shopping malls have increased safety procedures overall in the past two years, training employees on how to respond during an active shooter situation, during an evacuation and how to collaborate with police and first responders. Macy's, for example, has been using this kind of training since 2014.

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