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The Streets at Southpoint is putting a dog on patrol to detect firearms after a Black Friday shooting and other incidents of guns being brought to the mall.
The German shepherd named Cigan, trained and supplied by Florida-based security company Southern Coast K9, will patrol common areas and entrances with one of the mall’s security guards, Lindsay Kahn, a spokesperson for mall owner Brookfield Properties, told The News & Observer on Monday.
Like all Southern Coast K9 dogs, Cigan was handpicked from a European breeder and underwent five to six months of training at the company’s facility outside Daytona Beach, company President Bill Heiser told The N&O.
Cigan was then assigned to his handler, a Southpoint security guard, who went to the Southern Coast K9 facility for four additional weeks of training on how to handle the dog, Heiser said in an interview.
Patrick Anderson, senior general manager at Southpoint, said the mall managers “share the concerns of our community following recent incidents,” which he said led to the canine security measure.
“The well-being of all guests, tenants and employees is paramount, especially as we head into the home stretch of the holiday season,” Anderson said in a statement. “We hope that taking this action will help us to move forward together.”
Under the mall’s code of conduct, people are prohibited from bringing any firearms or illegal weapons, or from engaging in “disorderly conduct of any nature.”
How K9s are trained to search malls
Southern Coast K9 has been training and providing security dogs to clients including malls, amusement parks, law enforcement and even the military for over 30 years, Heiser said.
The company, founded by Heiser in 1988, has been working with the same European breeders for nearly three decades, he said, and only chooses dogs that are “sociable, well-rounded and possess an extreme hunt drive.”
That means the dogs aren’t distracted by crowds or loud music and other noises, and are only focused on finding and identifying their stimulus, which can include gun powder, explosives, drugs, or in this case, firearms.
After completing their own training, the dogs are paired with their handlers, and complete four weeks of training with them.
“We like to have one dog with one handler,” Heiser said. “The dog knows the handler’s personality and how he works, and the handler knows the dog’s personality and how he works. If you start adding other people into the mix, it gets confusing for the dog.”
Shoppers shouldn’t worry about encountering Cigan in the mall, Heiser said, since Southern Coast K9 only chooses dogs that have the right temperament.
If the dog identifies its stimulus, it alerts its handler by breathing more intensely and wagging its tail, Heiser said. The dogs are only trained to detect their stimulus and don’t take further action once they’ve found it.
“The dog’s sole purpose is to alert to that, and then it’s up to the handler to take over from there,” Heiser said.
Kahn, the spokesperson for Southpoint’s owner, said canine patrols of the mall have already begun, and will focus on common areas inside the mall. The dog will not enter stores unless asked to do so, Kahn said.
Initial feedback from customers and retailers who have seen Cigan making his rounds has been favorable, Anderson said during an interview on Monday.
Three incidents involving guns in recent weeks
The mall’s decision comes amid multiple incidents in recent weeks, beginning with a Black Friday incident Nov. 26 in which three people were shot.
Two men approached a man selling jewelry on the second level when one of them tried to rob the jewelry vendor, according to the Durham Police Department, leading both the man trying to steal the jewelry and the man selling it to fire guns. Multiple shots were fired, causing some frightened shoppers to hide in stores and call 911 while others ran for the mall’s exits.
The man suspected of trying to steal the jewelry was shot and critically injured. He remained in the hospital as of Dec. 3. Police have not yet provided an update on his condition.
On Dec. 23, Durham police announced Jaquaay Walton, 31, of Virginia, faces a charge of carrying a concealed weapon.
The mall decided to bring in a security dog from Southern Coast K9 after the Black Friday shooting, Kahn said on Monday. The mall’s security partner, Allied Universal Security Services, worked with the canine security company on bringing in Cigan and sending one of its security guards to Southern Coast K9’s facility for training.
Two more incidents involving guns were reported in the weeks after, including an altercation between two groups of people in the mall’s food court on Dec. 8, during which one man was assaulted and a handgun and wallet were stolen, the N&O reported.
On Dec. 23, Durham police said Elijah Sauls, 20, faces a charge of carrying a concealed gun and Messiah Whitted, 19, of Durham and a juvenile face charges of disorderly conduct by fighting. Additional charges against other individuals who have been identified are possible, police said.
Most recently, on the afternoon of Dec. 19, Durham police officers responded to the mall’s parking lot after receiving a report of a suspicious person with a weapon. Officers received a report of shots being fired as they arrived, but did not hear any gunfire themselves, Lt. Jackie Werner said in an email Sunday night. No injuries were reported.
On Dec. 23, police also announced Isaiah Hargro-Burnette, 20, of Greensboro, faces a charges of going armed to the terror of the public and felony carrying a concealed gun. Police are seeking to identify a second person connected to the incident.
None of the suspects named on Dec. 23 have been arrested, police said.
Opened on Fayetteville Road just south of Interstate 40 in 2002, Southpoint spans over 1.3 million square feet of retail space and provides for thousands of jobs across more than 170 retailers.
“The center is proud to be a hub for the community, and it is a privilege that is taken seriously,” Kahn said.
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This story was originally published December 20, 2021 4: 17 PM.
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