Subscribe to


Serial ATM thief, the old-fashioned kind, sentenced

Monday, May 12, 2014

A thief responsible for 22 ATM break-ins in Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Utah, Oregon and Arizona in 2012-13 is finally behind bars.

After a plea agreement, Clarence Edward Lancaster, 57, of Las Vegas, was recently sentenced to five years and three months along with three years of post-sentenced supervised release, according to a report from He is required to pay more than $220,000 in restitution.

Lancaster used plain old tools to smash open the ATMS and grab the cash inside—no new-fangled ram-raids for him.

He was caught last year when a professor at Eastern Arizona College called police after seeing him going into a building in an attempt to steal from an ATM, the news report said.

In the agreement, Lancaster admitted to the thefts that resulted in a total loss of $216,178.84—$124,000 in U.S. currency, $88,366.84 for damages caused to ATM machines, and $3,612 of property damage to the buildings and equipment where the thefts took place, the news report said.


ASIS in Atlanta

Friday, May 9, 2014

ATLANTA—I’ve been here this week for the ASIS 2014 Media Tour. ASIS holds this event each year in the city that will host its Annual Seminar and Exhibits in the fall.

As usual, ASIS scheduled some very productive days for the media participants. We visited, among other sites, the Georgia Aquarium, MARTA, CNN, the city’s Video Integration Center and the Delta Command Center to speak with their security pros about the systems they have in place. More to come about all of that.

Securing visitors the city is paramount, especially because city is experiencing a lot of development and moving from being known as a "convention city" to more of a tourist destination, said William C. Pate, president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. Opening soon are the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the National College Football Hall of Fame and a number of city marketplaces. A new Atlanta Braves Stadium and retractable-roof Falcons Stadium will follow.

Public-private partnerships ensure that safety, Pate said.

Stay tuned for more as we wrap up the tour today.



She saw something and said something: Thank you, Chelsie Schellhas

Monday, May 5, 2014

A woman washing dishes at her home on a Tuesday night helped prevent another god-awful school tragedy.

Thank you, Chelsie Schellhas.

According to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Schellhas noticed a tall teenaged boy with a backpack and a fast-food bag walking through her back yard in Waseca, Minn., toward a nearby storage unit facility.

She told the newspaper, “He walked through the puddles when there was a perfectly good road he could have walked on. It just didn’t seem right to me because we see people come and go with their trucks, and they don’t come on foot and cut through people’s back yards. It was like he was blatantly trying not to be seen. That’s why I thought it was odd.”

The newspaper further reports, “And then it took ‘some time’ for him to open the door, leading Schellhas to believe he was breaking in. Before he shut the door, Schellhas noticed trash and Wal-Mart bags in the unit. That also ‘didn’t look right,’ she said.”

Schellhas, under the advice of her cousin, called police. (Thank you, Cousin.)

When police arrived at the storage unit they found 17-year-old John David LaDue, who they eventually learned had an elaborate plan to kill his parents and sister, set a fire to divert law enforcement, then head for his high school armed with bombs and firearms that he had manufactured and stockpiled, with the intent of injuring as many students as he could.

Police said LaDue "was fully prepared and ready to go.”

You can read more details of the teen’s plans and his acquired arsenal in the newspaper report. They’re grisly and will leave you cold. He allegedly had been planning— and testing—this siege on his family and school for months.

But it only took Schellhas a few minutes to thwart it.

She saw something and she said something.

That mantra is not for nothing.

Thank you again, Ms. Schellhas, who reportedly has received flowers and notes of thanks from parents in the area. And thank you to the speedy response from law enforcement that helped prevent another national tragedy.

More arrests in huge Eli Lilly heist

Monday, April 28, 2014

So by now we’ve all heard about the $80 million theft of prescription drugs from an Eli Lilly warehouse in Enfield, Conn., in 2010. But now we have more arrests in the heist, believed to be the largest in the state’s history.

Two men, brothers, were previously charged in the case. One of them has pleaded guilty is awaiting sentencing; the other has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Recently, three other men, all Cuban citizens living in Florida, were arrested and charged with conspiracy and theft in the case, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The theft included thousands of boxes of Zyprexa, Cymbalta, Prozac, Gemzar and other drugs.

The thieves apparently used a ladder to climb on to the warehouse’s roof, cut a hole, dropped down into the building and disabled security alarms, prosecutors say. They then uploaded about 49 pallets of drugs into a waiting truck.

That truck was then driven to Florida, where the drugs were unloaded into a storage building in the Miami area.




Boston Strong!

Monday, April 21, 2014

I’ve been following news out of the Boston Marathon all day today and breathing a sigh of relief every time I read about Police Commissioner William Evans reassuring news outlets that the route is safe.

Heightened security for the more than 35,600 runners entered in the race, the second largest ever in the marathon’s 117-year history, included 100 new cameras in a connected, live-monitored network; 45 canine units, up from 12 last year; 8,000 strategically placed steel barricades, up from 6,800 last year; 3,500 uniformed and undercover officers on patrol, more than doubling last year; and 50 observation points around the finish line, according to NBC News.

"We have plenty of undercover officers out there, but technology, you know, is going play a big part," Evans told NBC.

Evans, you might remember, had just finished the marathon last year when he was called back to scene due to the bombings. His expertise at that time resulted in his promotion to commissioner.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said this year's security preparations were “on steroids.”

Boston Strong! A big thanks and congratulations to all those involved in race security—from first responders to the Boston Athletic Association, which hosts the marathon, to the hoteliers and retailers in the area who all worked hard to ensure a save haven for the athletes and their fans.









The 'CSI -TV' factor and video surveillance

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I read an interesting post on the ASMAG site about an Axis-commissioned survey of Canadians, “Survey exposes surveillance myths created by CSI crime dramas.” It pointed out that many, many people falsely believe that image enhancement techniques and intelligent software in real life should be of the quality shown on popular TV shows.

I was struck by this because this theme has come up a number of times when I’ve spoken with manufacturers and reps at trade shows, and even when I've interviewed law enforcement officers. Customers expect what they see on TV, they’ve complained to me. Why can’t they enhance that video feed? Where’s the facial recognition component? Why is their video grainy? (Maybe they should switch to IP?)

Here’s some of the article from ASMAG:

·      “71 percent of Canadians think recorded surveillance footage can be enhanced in a lab using software.

·      “Most Canadians have very little idea how long surveillance video is generally stored, with 27 percent admitting they have no idea and 26 percent believing video is stored indefinitely.

·      “Three-quarters of Canadians believe facial recognition software can easily pick individual faces out of a crowd for identification, with crime drama fans even more likely to believe this.

“When TV crime technicians produce an accurate photo of a suspect from the reflection off someone's sunglasses, it makes for good entertainment but it's not realistic,” said Bob Moore, country manager, Canada, Axis Communications.

“IP camera innovations have improved image quality and image usability exponentially, but if police are dealing with low-resolution video common in the real world today, there is nothing that can be done to enhance the image,” Moore said.

You really should read the entirety of the survey’s findings. It’s quite illuminating.



Penetration tests: Must-haves, but leave to professionals

Thursday, April 17, 2014
Jeffrey Hawkins
Manager, Strategic Initiatives for the Private Security Sector, American Military University

On March 17, Security Director News Managing Editor Amy Canfield (a media colleague I respect) wrote a blog post, “Journalists 'surprise entries' to schools draw criticism. Why?”

And as much as I like and respect Ms. Canfield, I have to totally disagree with her take about media people showing flaws in security, especially at schools, by walking into unsecured buildings and areas.

As I told Ms. Canfield, in my opinion they had no right to do this, it was dangerous, and frankly I think they should have faced charges.

I know that sounds harsh, but here are some points:

1. With the climate of heightened awareness of what is happening in our schools, an untrained person should not be the one testing security at a place like a school. As a former cop, FBI-trained SWAT member and chief security officer who worked in an armed capacity, I know this could have turned out very bad. Imagine I am the armed officer in the school and see this person enter a bathroom. I confront the person, and they make a move that I perceive as going for a weapon—I am going to shoot. I have had the unfortunate experience of seeing fellow police officers shoot and kill suspects who made moves perceived as threatening only to find out that they were not armed—it happens and is very bad when it does.

2. Putting school children in a panic is just uncalled for, no matter what point you are trying to make. I remember an incident when I first started in security and was working for a pharmaceutical distribution company outside of Chicago. It was high risk and security was tight. A security vendor I was considering using to supplement my security decided one day to make unauthorized entry into the building and run out a fire exit into a waiting car, setting off all types of alarms. They were proving the point that there were "gaps" in our access control, however, as pointed out above, they were almost shot, and they really didn't enter into any secure area except the office and scared the heck out of office personnel. If traumatic to adults, I can't imagine, in this day of tragic events we have witnessed in schools, how traumatic it would be to children. (As a side note, that vendor never got work from me or anyone else I told about what they pulled.)

3. Lastly inducing panic is pretty plain and simple by definition. No one should be doing this, period.

Now to Ms. Canfield’s point: how the heck does this happen in any school given what we have experienced, and where is the security? I totally agree; if a reporter can penetrate the school, what would a bad guy be able to do?

But this comes down to several points (below) about what an effective security plan entails, which I think a lot of people do not understand, and I would guess a lot of organizations do not practice: penetration tests of their own security.

1.  Security is never 100 percent and never will be, but untested security is 100 percent vulnerability—you are guessing it will work.

2. Security is not "things" you just put in place for peace of mind. Alarms, CCTV, etc., are parts of overall security (physical, electronic and procedural), but the object is to create layers to make it harder for the bad guy to penetrate. “Things” cannot be put in place and left untested, and that goes for people as well as technology.

3. There are ways to do controlled penetration tests without panicking people. I have personally completed many at various institutions around the country without inducing panic, and as a chief security officer I have hired people to test my own security and security personnel. Typically, I would do four to six penetration tests a year (not an alarm test, but a person physically gaining entry into a protected facility or area). There are safe ways to do this and afterwards, pass or fail, make adjustments and let your staff know how they did.

Unfortunately, many organizations spend resources on security but never actually test its effectiveness, and this is a big mistake.

There are ways to do controlled, unannounced penetration tests, but they need to be done by professionals, before the media shows up or, worst, a tragic incident occurs.

Jeffrey A. Hawkins, B.S., M.S. is a senior public safety/security professional with over 30-years of diverse experience working for profit, not-for-profit and government organizations on a local, regional, and global level. He currently serves as Manager, Strategic Initiatives for the Private Security Sector at American Military University. His full bio may be found on LinkedIn at:



More attempted breaches to test school security—but these folks are cops

Monday, April 14, 2014

So here’s another angle on a post I wrote here last month about print and TV journalists walking into schools unannounced to test security procedures: A school district in North Texas has arranged with the local police department to have officers go undercover to test the schools' security.

Undercover officers from the Lewisville Police Department check entryways to make sure school doors are locked, and they try to think like intruders and look for other ways to get in. They even fabricate stories for front-desk employees to make sure they’re checked for ID before they can get farther into the school, according to a report from NBC 5 in Dallas-Forth Worth.

The collaborative effort has turned up valuable insights so far, police and school officials say.

“It makes the administration refocus our efforts in how clear we are with the staff about what’s expected,” high school principal Jeffrey Kais said in the news report.

So, a more responsible approach, I concede. I’m just relieved someone’s checking.



'Staying Alive'

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Frequent Security Director News source Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, along with his son, Chris Dorn, and two others from the organization, have authored “Staying Alive: How to Act Fast to Survive Deadly Encounters.”

Safe Havens is a non-profit organization that helps improve crisis preparedness and campus safety at educational institutions.

The book, published by Barrons and scheduled for release next month, offers strategies that have been used successfully to avert planned school shootings, bombings and other potentially deadly events. It also provides strategies to survive violent incidents in malls, cinemas, places of worship and residences.

Numerous real-life case studies are included in the book to show how security pros and non-security pros alike have used their wits to stay alive during tragic events. There are some very riveting stories included. One chapter, "Active Shooters—Should You Run, Hide, or Fight," takes up the controversial philosophy in great detail. Other chapters deal with the over-reliance on security technology as preventive measures, how to detect dangerous people and how to cope with traumatic stress in the aftermath of violence.

I've read enough of the book to see it as a must-read for anyone responsible for ensuring the security of others.

A companion video to the book soon will be available on the Safe Havens’ website. In addition, the authors have already been asked to write a sequel.

Congrats to the Dorns and their co-authors for this important publication.



Safe and secure away from home?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Having just returned from Las Vegas after attending ISC West, this item, “Five Ways Safety at Hotels Can Be Compromised,” from, caught my eye.

During my travels, I often feel safer at some hotels more than others even though I don't stay in fleabag motels by a long shot. But as a woman traveling alone, safety and security is always on my mind. In Vegas last week, I was glad to see a security guard stationed by the guest-room elevators, right off the huge casino floor, and that I had to insert my room card to get to my floor. Being in the secuirty biz, I looked up to see myraid surveillance cameras everywhere. Once I arrived at my 24th-floor room I was happy not only to lock my door, but to get that “safety latch” in place.

But now I see how both locks can be compromised.

On my last day in Vegas I was working at the desk in my room when a maid used her key to unlock my door, but the safety latch stopped her. This was about 1 p.m. I had a late checkout of 3, of which she apparently wasn’t aware. If I hadn’t had the safety latch on, she would have barged right in. The sight of me at that moment probably would have frightened her as much as someone unlocking my door had frightened me.

Hotel safety and security is a big issue for enterprises whose employees travel, often worldwide.

Let’s keep them safe!