Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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Mounted security officers hoof it at Boulevard Mall

Starting Saturday, mounted security officers will be hoofing it at the Boulevard mall.

Alpha Omega Services Inc. has hired five horse-riding officers to guard the mall on Maryland Parkway.

Uniformed officers already patrol the complex. And security personnel monitor more than 100 surveillance cameras at the mall. Former FBI Special Agent Burk Smith directs security there.

But officials wanted more security at the 1.2 million-square-foot shopping complex, said Frank Keller, founder and chief executive officer of the horse security company.

"This mall does it all," said Keller, who has been in the horse security business for 10 years. "They have every bit of technology available there and now they've added horses to their security."

It's not a new concept, he said. He described mounted horsemen as "founding America."

"Mounted patrol have been fighting wars for years, and mounted police for hundreds of years," Keller said. "This whole country was founded on horseback. This concept has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years."

But his private horse patrol company is the only one in the nation, as far as he knows.

He expects Las Vegas to add more horse troopers to other areas of the city. The biggest market for horse troopers is in Houston, with 50 horse troopers planted at shopping centers, Keller said.

"I look for Vegas to be just as big or bigger in the next few years. I anticipate we'll have 20 or 30 in the area within a year because of the demand for the service."

The biggest plus is crowd management, he said.

"Shopping centers are our specialty," he said.

People respond well to the mounted troopers, Keller said.

"They're 10 feet in the air," Keller said. "They have the ability to see and be seen. They have a 360-degree ability and people can see them when they're up that high."

Also, he said the mounted security troopers are able to get into areas, especially during traffic gridlock situations during the Christmas holiday season, where a vehicle can't.

"They're also intimidating to people whose intentions may not be friendly, who may be at the property to cause problems or do no good," Keller said. "To those folks, a horse is an unpredictable entity. They steer clear of them. They leave. There's no nook or crannie they can't be found or seen in."

Also, he said the horses are very effective in building a bond with youths, causing crime to drop by as much as 75 to 80 percent "immediately."

Uniformed troopers, donning bright red shirts, navy blue cavalry-like pants with a gold stripe, knee-high riding boots and helmets, will officially begin patrolling the Boulevard on Saturday.

The troopers are from Las Vegas and had to pass "rigorous tests," Keller said. Within 12 months of signing on with the company, they have to attend a certification school. But they've alread been through a three-day clinic to learn different maneuvers, including self-defense and crowd control, he said.

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