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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!



Heading out for ISC West!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Updated 4-4-14

Day Three at ISC West

This year’s show could be the “breakout” point for video enabling that provides security along with diverse business intelligence, said Milestone System’s Karl Erik Traberg, head of corporate communications and business development. “We’ll look back and say, ‘That’s when it took off.’ “Why? The mindset is changing, and security pros are seeing the benefits of business intelligence. Security directors have been dealing with tight budgets for years, but now they can be the leaders in having conversations about business value. Last year's show was all about thermal imaging cameras and the new lower prices, he said—and biometrics, I might add—but this year's ISC West had a big focus on business intelligence.

In fact, video combined with access control was, indeed, one of the recurring themes I heard at the show, along with, importantly, manufacturers listening more to end users’ needs and working with them to develop those win-win solutions. And that’s a good thing.

Security directors should start working on their video enabling strategies, Daniel O’Connell, managing director for Definition Branding and Marketing, added at my meet-up with Milestone. With video enabling being the wave of the future, planning now will allow them to define their own professional futures.

Biometric technology is now an option for the little guy, according to Kirsten Pflomm, VP of marketing for Zwipe. The fingerprint-reading access control card can allow small businesses, or larger ones for that matter, to go to biometrics overnight. No new readers are needed. Maybe only five people at a small hospital need access to highly secure areas. Zwipe insures the person with the card is the person assigned to the card.  

At MOOG, Chris Lindenau, global director of sales and marketing for sensor and surveillance systems, showed me the company’s new explosion-proof, high-def cameras. The cameras are designed for environments where explosion hazards arise from dangerous gases or vapors, such as petroleum plants, oil and gas rigs, mining companies and fertilizer plants. A pressure-regulating system protects the camera from gas and vapors, which could ignite an explosion. I’ve never had occasion to think of that kind of situation before, and Lindenau’s explanation to me was intriguing. I hope to follow up.

Assa Abloy’s Mark Duato, senior director for integration solutions, walked me through some “future-proof” lock/access control solutions suitable for campuses, the banking/financial sector and health care facilities and others. Great stuff.

And what a great, busy show!

Updated 4-3-14

Day Two at ISC West:

After an early start to the day to see the runners off at the Security 5K, which raised $90,000 for Mission 500's disadvantaged children (yay!), it was back to the Sands where I conducted four on-camera interviews with four end users who had lots of good info to share. The videos will be posted soon on SDN, but for now here are a few takeaways from them.

Marilyn Hollier, director of security services for the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers—and president of IAHSS—talked about “tapping into the talent of your team.” Security directors working under tight budgets certainly can’t do it all, she said, so she encourages all of her employees to get bachelor’s degrees and even master’s and as many professional certifications as they can. Employees are her resources, she says, and by showing you value their professional growth those resources become even more valuable. And when—or if—she retires? She'll know she has a good succession plan in place.

Phil Lisk, IT and security director for the Bergen County, N.J., Sheriff’s Dept., said the convergence of IT and physical security is not a new phenomenon for him. It’s necessary and makes his job easier. He also discussed LPR and how with the right privacy controls in place—and New Jersey’s are strict, he said—it can beneficially serve law enforcement.

Fifth Third Bank’s Mike Neugebauer, VP and senior manager for safety and security, said changes in the brick-and-mortar banking industry have led to numerous challenges and opportunities for security. With more and more customers opting for automated services, branches are shrinking in size and have fewer employees. Where before two people might have opened a branch in the morning, now just one does. Protecting one employee can sometimes be more difficult than protecting two. Teller lines get smaller, so cameras may have to be repositioned. Neugebauer and I also discussed the recent rash of ATM thefts, the kind where thieves rip them out of the ground, and the use of sensors and GPS to combat that crime.

Ralph Nerette, manager of security for Dana Farber Cancer Institute, had interesting insights on the “green” movement in security equipment. He said he’s noticed more manufacturers promoting the energy-efficiency of their products and whether they were made with some recycled products, for example. He likes that. Taking that kind of information to the c-suite shows you’re part of the team, he said. Nerette is currently busy with numerous upgrades to his visitor management system and more.

Back on the floor, I met with Brivo’s Lee Odess, VP marketing, about Randivoo Mobile, Brivo’s new visitor management system. Security has been all about secure vs. secure, he said, “but now it’s about convenience.” Social access management through mobile devices is the wave of the future, he said. At a Starbucks and need to use the restroom? Randivoo can help you with that. Waiting in line for the key is no longer needed. If you arrive for a meeting at an office building, Randivoo can be pre-programmed to allow you acccess to the building and your specific meeting room, only. Very cutting-edge stuff.

Peter Ribinski, EVP of Bosch, discussed the company’s work with end users to ensure they get what the need. In this world of IP, he said, users have many choices, many of them complex. Sometimes, too many parameters are just that, too many. One product had more than 600 parameters and end-user testing showed those could be easily cut to less than 100 to benefit the customer’s ease of use, he said. I was impressed with that and heard a number of times at the show how companies are working with end-users to accommodate their needs.

Michael Irvin, director of marketing, 3XLogic, talked me through a demo of Vigil Trends, a customizable single dashboard system for business intelligence. Unlike other business intelligence providers, Vigil Trends incorporates video data into the equation, delivering the data necessary for users to make informed, effective and timely decisions about their business, their assets and their employees, he said.  Drilldowns allow users to focus in on suspect transactions at POS and on other LP needs as well as operations and marketing information.

After the awards ceremony for the race—complete with a performance by the most talented, cutest little boy group I have ever seen—I visited with Genetec at a reception at Tao. Nice to catch up with the folks I met there a few months ago at the company’s press summit in Montreal.

Day 3 is coming right up.

Updated 4-2-14

Day One for me at ISC West:

I met with some very nice NICE folks first thing in the morning. Bob Grado of the Denver Regional Transportation District discussed his experience moving to NICE’s mobile video recording solution for its new bus fleet. The solution will significantly enhance RTD’s investigative efficiency when complaints are filed, he said. RTD approached NICE and a few other companies about its needs, but it was NICE that came through in the end, Grado said. William Lafave, NICE regional VP, major accounts, security group, said it was a win-win for the end-user and NICE. The solution was custom-built for RTD, but can easily be adapted to other end users.

Honeywell Fire Systems product manager William Brosig and public relations manager Beth Welch demonstrated how the mass communication RTZM Module is a good fit for smaller end users, such as churches, office buildings, warehouses and even schools. Tying into any brand of fire alarm system, it can send out emergency notifications through a facility’s emergency command center system via any phone.  It is easy to use, with simple options and pre-programmed recordings and can be transmitted only to affected zones.

At the 3VR booth, Don Wright, director/physical security for the Carolinas Health Care System, discussed his long history with the company and the fact that when he wanted better use of his network assets it was 3VR that came through. “We have a sweet, symbiotic relationship,” he said. With 3,000 or so cameras for his many facilities, that was too many for real-time viewing. The new search features make his forensic investigations easier, and the on-board notifications of problems with specific cameras make his life easier, he said.

Sentry View System’s president and COO Justin Thompson said his power hybrid charge controller can handle up to three inputs, such as solar, wind power and generator, for example. The system, designed for power and surveillance needs at remote sites, has been successful for U.S.-Mexico border patrols, during the pope’s visit to Brazil, and for Nigerians who wanted to be able to worship as they wished despite terrorist attacks against them. It also is beneficial to critical infrastructure facilities, such as water utilities, which have a lot at stake, often in very far-flung locations.

March Networks’ Dan Cremins, director of product management, with a background of 21 years in the security industry, said that talking to end users “is the best way to learn.” He cited a number of examples, including janitors at a school who were dealing with graffiti. Those janitors turned out to be his end users, he said. He wouldn’t have known that without good communication with his customers. March Network’s goal is to reduce the time people in the field have to go out and check out what’s going on.

At SRI International, “Iris on the Move” has not only stopped time-and-attendance fraud at construction sites, it has helped at worldwide airports, at sporting events, U.S. financial institutions and at data centers, said Mark Clifton, VP, Products & Services Division and general manager. The system can work in all lighting environments and is more effective than fingerprint systems, he said.

Solink’s  CEO Michael Matta is all about making better sense of videos and the Big Data they produce. “There’s lots of data coming in from multiple points,” he says. Proactive surveillance can “create a story of events,” to benefit the end user. He’s looking to take actionable decision-making to banking and retail customers with multiple locations with “smaller footprint spaces.”

I also had the delightful opportunity to meet up with three of Security Director News’ previous “20 under 40” winners. Patrick Wood of John Deere, Mike Wiley of Switch and Ralph Nerette of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute all stopped by our “Meet the Editors” event to check in and say hello. It’s always great to see these young pros again and find out what they’re up to. Such smart people!

I capped off the night with the Women’s Security Council reception to honor this year’s award winners. I had a great conversation with Silvia Fraser, manager of corporate security for the City of Toronto, about the challenges she faces each and every day. The WSC also had some exciting news to relay at the event: a new, sponsored scholarship for women in the security realm. Stay tuned for more about that.

Thursday, April 3, promises more exciting news from the physical security industry. I’ll be doing four video interviews, which you can watch here soon.

Stay tuned and keep in touch!


I’ll be arriving in Vegas tomorrow, April 1, for the big show. My schedule is jam-packed with meetings with end users to discuss their most recent successes with new technology and what they’re still looking for to help them in their day-to-day physical security challenges. I’m also scheduled to meet with some manufacturers who have promised me some fresh and new ideas to meet end users’ needs.

I’ll be blogging each day to let you know what I’ve learned from all of them and then will follow up with more in-depth articles after the show, so please stay tuned. And, as always, I appreciate any and all feedback.

If you’ll be at the show, please stop by the Meet the Editors event from 9:30-10 a.m. Wednesday at the Security Directors News/Security Systems News booth, adjacent to the ISC West Media Stage right outside the main entrance to the show floor. My colleagues, SSN editor Martha Entwistle, SSN managing editor Tess Nacelewicz, SSN associate editor Leif Kothe and I are looking forward to getting to know more of our readers.

I’m also looking forward to catching up with some of the SDN “20 under 40” alumni at the show. Spending time with this group of young professionals is one of the highlights of my job.

Hope to see you there!


CNN journalists arrested for attempted WTC security breach

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NEW YORK—Two CNN producers tried to sneak past security at the World Trade Center on March 25, failed and were arrested, according to a Reuters report. The men were investigating recent security lapses at the site, still under construction, the report said.

Yonatan Pomrenze, 35, and Connor Fieldman Boals, 26, first tried to talk their way in through the site’s main gate in early afternoon. When they were prevented from entering, Boals tried twice unsuccessfully to climb over the perimeter fence. The pair then tried to force their way through an electronic gate a block away when they were arrested, the report said.

It would have been a good story for them, had they succeeded. Four men were arrested March 24 for a September 2013 parachute-jump from the top of One World Trade Center. The three who made the jump—one stayed on the ground as a lookout—said they encountered no security as they made their way to the top of the building, still under construction. 

Earlier this month, a teenager made his way to the top of the building, past an apparently oblivious security guard and then one sleeping guard, to take photos of himself atop the tallest U.S. building in the nation.

In the most recent attempt, the two CNN guys were filming a report on recent security breaches at the World Trade Center, a spokeswoman for the news network told Reuters.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has spent millions on security for the World Trade Center, scheduled to open later this year on the site of the 9-11 attacks.

On Tuesday afternoon, the two CNN duo told the officer at the main gate that if a 16-year-old was able to get in, then so should they, said Joseph Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority Police Department.

"He had enough sense to try it at 4 o'clock in the morning," he said of the 16-year-old. The CNN producers’ attempt came about 2 p.m. "This is very wasteful of valuable law-enforcement time and energy," Pentangelo said, according to Reuters

The men were arrested on charges of criminal trespass, obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct, police said.

Journalists have recently taken the same tactic to check school security.

What do you think?