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Journalists 'surprise entries' to schools draw criticism. Why?

Monday, March 17, 2014

There was a provocative article in The New York Times this past weekend, pulling together a number of events I’ve been following over recent months: Journalists walk into public schools unannounced to test security measures.

What they’ve found I find astounding, but the flak they’ve received is equally astounding, in my opinion.

A reporter for KSDK entered a high school in suburban St. Louis in January and walked around the hallways for several minutes before the office staff noticed him. Eventually, the school was put in lockdown.

No doubt, that’s exactly what the school should have done upon finding an intruder in its midst, but how did the reporter saunter into the school and wander around for several minutes in the first place?

The lockdown resulted in police response and stress on students and staff, not to mention parents’ worries. “It terrified my kids and a lot of other kids,” one parent told the newspaper.

I get that. As the parent of a high schooler, I, too, would be more than beside myself if there was a lockdown at his school.

Granted, the KSDK reporter, after, I repeat, wandering for some time, made a few qustionable decisions. He went to the front office, gave his name and phone number and asked to speak with someone about school security, the NYT said. He did not identify himself as a reporter, asked where a bathroom was, then left in another direction. That's when the school called the number he provided and got his voicemail, identifying him as a reporter. When the school called his TV station, employees there would not confirm he worked there, the NYT report said.

The school did the right thing in initiating the lockdown—but only after an unknown person was in the building for a matter of minutes when anything could have happened had the reporter been a bad guy.

The question remains: How did he get into the school unchecked in the first place? Isn’t that the most important point here? Maybe he was armed. Maybe he was a non-custodial parent, a pedophile or a drug-addled passer-by looking for a bathroom or at least someplace warm. Who cares? The point is, an unknown, unauthorized person entered the school and wandered around before any one in charge took notice.

In Fargo, N.D., a TV correspondent entered a school in December. She was investigated for trespassing but her station agreed to keep her away from school-related news coverage for 90 days, the Times said.

In New York, a WNBC journalist gained “unimpeded access” to seven of 10 city schools it approached.

Opponents of these journalistic tactics cite the fact that an armed security guard could have pulled a gun on the reporter, that they caused undue panic at the schools and, at the very least, the journalists were irresponsible. I understand those points. I don't, however, get the comments from the St. Louis superintendent, Thomas Williams, who the NYT said "was outraged" by the journalist's visit. 

“Is it OK for them to set a fire and see how fast the fire department responds? It’s a safety issue. It’s not responsible. It’s the wrong way to do it,” he is quoted as saying.

Obviously, the journalist did no harm, and had no intent to set a fire. How, Mr. Williams, did he get into your school in the first place?

After the horrific Newtown tragedy and the others we’ve seen at schools nationwide in recent years, wouldn’t you want to know if an unannounced person/suspect was able to enter your child’s school?

I would want to know if there were holes in the security at my son’s high school.

I don’t want anyone entering any school without being vetted from the very start. Schools shouldn’t be prison-like fortresses, but unknown persons should not be allowed in the front door, including surprise journalists.

All schools don’t have budgets for top-notch surveillance cameras and the most-up-to-date access control, but no one should be allowed on their premises without a school official knowing about it, even if that means sitting someone at the door to check IDs.

These journalists were doing a public service.

What do you think? I’d like to know.


AXIS on the red carpet

Friday, March 14, 2014

As your favorite celebrities made their way down the red carpet before the Academy Awards, Axis Communications cameras were following their every jewel-studded move.

The Los Angeles Police Department selected a mix of HDTV-quality pan/tilt/zoom network cameras to provide security and live situational awareness on the red carpet and throughout the block surrounding the Dolby Theater before the March 2 ceremony in Los Angeles, Axis said in a press release.

A wireless mesh network connected the cameras to a police command center seven miles away. The cameras were managed remotely using Axis Camera With the cameras managed remotely through Camera Companion software.

Faced with a number of challenges including large crowds, variable outdoor lighting conditions, cameras flashes and the fact that red is one of the hardest colors for video to render, the LAPD chose IP cameras that could overcome these challenges, capture the best possible images at the forefront and ensure the video was reliably recorded and readily accessible, Axis said in the statement.








Sadly, another case for steel bollards

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So here we go again, unfortunately—and tragically.

A driver drove through a temporary barricade at the South by Southwest [SXSW] festival in Austin, Texas, early Thursday morning, killing two and injuring 23 others. The driver apparently was attempting to avoid a drunk-driving checkpoint, according to news reports. He faces murder charges.

[SXSW, by the way, attracts a number of security professionals for its “interactive events” about new technology and this year had a video feed from Russia featuring Edward Snowden.]

Security Director News, with the help of Rob Reiter, co-founder of the Storefront Safety Council [], has reported often on such incidents, including those that are intentional for ram-raids, also known as smash-and-grab robberies. Check the SDN website for those articles.

Reiter pushes for protecting pedestrians and store customers and employees with steel bollards.

Cities need to learn about protecting those at events such as SXSW and at its businesses, Reiter says. “It does not have to be this way.”


Smart lights with cameras piloted at Newark airport

Monday, March 10, 2014

NEWARK, N.J.—Liberty International Airport here has replaced lighting outside and inside of its Terminal B with 171 “smart LEDs.” The Sensity-manufactured lights, which last longer and consume less energy than traditional lighting, include security cameras and other functions.

Viewed as a pilot project by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Honeywell, and started last fall, its primary goal is to “test the efficacy of the cameras deployed in conjunction with energy efficient LED lights,” a port authority spokeswoman said in response to a request for information from Security Director News.

The spokeswoman said the Port Authority would “not be doing any interviews on this particular topic,” but she did provide background information.

Video footage collected during the project is being used to monitor congestion and for security purposes, she said. The airport is using footage of the terminal’s ticketing area to monitor queues and activity, with possible future monitoring of unattended baggage.

The Port Authority will decide how the collected footage from the LEDs will be used after the results of the pilot project have been evaluated, she said. The footage would be shared only with other law enforcement agencies conducting authorized investigations that submit official requests or subpoenas.


Bulletproof glass: Good for business?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I heard an interesting item on NPR during my commute to the office this morning titled “Growing An Urban Neighborhood, One Store At A Time.”

It focused on a low-income area, Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C., and how it is working to attract businesses. One storeowner interviewed talked about opening a cellphone store a year ago on one of the area's crime-ridden streets. His shop also offers other goods that his customers want and need and that’s why he has been successful, he said.

Here’s what stood out for me, quoting directly from the NPR report:

“If it's that simple, why aren't restaurants and retailers popping up [here]?

“There's more than one answer here, but what it often boils down to is two words: bulletproof glass. Because for businesses, that often means two things: actual crime and the perception of crime.

“Crime is a concern here—Congress Heights had more than 100 violent crimes in the past year. But other trendier nightlife spots in the city have their own crime problems—and don't have the same reputation.

“This leads to the second issue, perception. Bulletproof glass signals to people in the community that the street isn't safe, creating a sort of feedback loop between perceived safety and actual safety.

"It's almost like if you don't have the confidence in your neighborhood to deserve a vibrant street, then you're not going to strive for it," says Heather Arnold, research director for the D.C. planning and design firm Streetsense.

“But [the cellphone store owner] insists that if you get to know your neighbors, the neighborhood will be a safe place to do business.

"I get to know the families. I know from the kids, the grandmothers, the parents. That's why I'm not behind bulletproof glass, whereas a lot of other businesses you go into, everyone has bulletproof glass," [the owner] says. "Why? What are you so afraid of?"

Food for thought, no?

First of all, how do customers know the store is protected by bulletproof glass? Are there warning signs posted? Is bulletproof glass a deterrent to crime yet also a deterrent to customers? What do you think is the answer?

I don’t live in a crime-ridden neighborhood, but I can’t help thinking, in my own humble opinion, that I wouldn’t be turned off if my local retailers had bullet-proof glass in place. I’d also like them to have storefront bollards to prevent the ever-increasing incidences of ram-raids.

Whatever safety measures retailers take is a plus, in my opinion. Is that just because I don’t live in a crime-ridden neighborhood?

What do you think? I look forward to hearing your answers.








Who's going to ISC West?

Friday, February 28, 2014

I'm gearing up for ISC West and have been checking out the educational offerings for end users. There's a wide range, those dealing with business acumen to those focusing on specific topics such as active shooters. All look great. Although the show floor is large and busy with lots of people to meet with, I hope to find some time to check out at least a few of those sessions.

If you'll be at the show, please let me know. I'd like to catch a time with you to hear what's utmost on your minds these days. What's impacting you as physical security professionals? What do you need to help you better do your jobs? 

If you'd like to meet, email me at or call me at 207-846-0600, ext. 227. Thanks!

Have a story to tell? Let me put you on camera at ISC West!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Will you be at ISC West in April? Do you have a physical security story to tell?

Each year at the show, Security Director News holds court at the ISC West Media Studio, just outside the main entrance to the show floor. You can’t miss us!

There, throughout the show, SDN does short video interviews with end users and others with successes to share or trending issues and concerns to relay.


I’m no Katie Couric, but I’d really appreciate the chance to sit down with you in front of the cameras to speak briefly. We post the video interviews on our website, and they’re always very popular. Your colleagues in the industry want to know what you have to say.

Last year the most popular video interviews I conducted included those with Brian Johnson on K-12 school surveillance [March Networks] in Escambia County, Fla., and with Berkley Trumbo, then-Sieman's national business manager for campus solutions, who spoke about security for higher ed.

I have a number of interviews planned for this year, but I’m looking for even more. Are you in banking, education, hospitals, retail? Love to hear from you! It’s time to toot your own horn or have your representatives do it for you.

Email me at or call me at 207-846-0600, ext. 227, as soon as you can if you’re interested.  

Thanks and I’ll see you in Vegas!


Your employee steals from you, do you report it to police?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why don’t small business owners report employee theft to police?

According to a recent study by Jay Kennedy at the University of Cincinnati, there are four reasons.

1.    Business owners don’t see the thefts as being serious enough to report.

2.    Attorneys often advise the owners that it’s not worth the time, effort and money to prosecute.

3.    Relationships. Owners often well know the thief—and his or her family—and could even be related.

4.    Owners may think their local police force is unable to deal with complex financial thefts, or have more important crimes to deal with.

Kennedy’s study, according to Business News Daily and prepared statements from the University of Cincinnati, found that 64 percent of small businesses have experienced employee theft, but only 16 percent of those reported the incidents to police.

“It's important to look at this topic because such theft represents a loss to the tax base and would also seem to put such businesses at risk, and so, put our overall economy at risk," Kennedy was quoted as saying in the reports.

The most common item stolen was cash, at 40 percent, the report found. Those thefts ranged from $5 to $2 million, with an average of $20,000, Kennedy said in the reports. Eighteen percent of thefts were of products, 12 percent were materials, 8 percent were tools and 6 percent were equipment.

Most thefts occur over time, he said, by first-line employees. Only about 2 percent of cashiers are likely to be thieves, he said in the news report.

The study was based on surveys of 314 small business owners in Cincinnati. The businesses covered a range of industries, including the finance/banking; manufacturing; service; and restaurant/retail sectors.



DRN, Vigilant sue over Utah's LPR ban

Friday, February 14, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—Digital Recognition Network Inc. and Vigilant Solutions Inc. have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Utah’s outright ban on automatic license plate readers.

The ban “arbitrarily prohibits an activity that is protected in all other settings and violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” the plaintiffs said in a prepared statement.

The Utah Automatic License Plate Reader System Act, which prohibits the use of automated high-speed cameras to photograph license plates in the state of Utah, infringes on constitutionally protected speech and causes the companies imminent and irreparable injury, the companies noted in a prepared statement.  The companies are calling for preliminary injunctive relief.

The case could have far-reaching national repercussions as more than 20 states are currently reviewing bills that would curb the use of license plate recognition systems for both private and law enforcement use, the companies noted in the statement. Further, five states have already enacted legislation that is identical or similar to the Utah act.

“Taking and distributing a photograph is an act that is fully protected by the first Amendment,” DRN / Vigilant outside counsel Michael Carvin said in the statement.  “The state of Utah cannot claim that photographing a license plate violates privacy. License plates are public by nature and contain no sensitive or private information. Any citizen of Utah can walk outside and photograph anything they please, including a license plate.”

DRN and Vigilant assert that their ALPR systems do the same exact thing any citizen can do – see license plates, interpret the alphanumeric characters, and mentally log where the license plate was seen.  ALPR systems can just complete the tasks much faster. 

“This law is ill-defined and clearly driven by a national anti-LPR campaign initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),” Mike Moore, former Mississippi State Attorney General and now head of the Mike Moore Law Firm, said in the statement.  “ALPR data has proven to be an invaluable tool for law enforcement to solve crimes and apprehend criminals while protecting the privacy of U.S. citizens and fully abiding by the U.S. Constitution. The Legislature has unknowingly created a potential safe haven for pedophiles, rapists, and other serious criminals by preventing law enforcement from having access to LPR data from private companies, and by requiring law enforcement to delete their own data—it just does not make sense from the perspective of the public safety of the citizens of Utah,” according to Moore.



'20 under 40' winners at Delray Beach!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We were so pleased to have 10 of our "20 under 40" winners in attendance at TechSec Solutions last month to receive their awards in person. Here's a photo of the impressive group.

From left to right, Adam Parker, director of loss prevention, Lamps Plus; Patrick Wood, enterprise manager, security integrations, John Deere & Co.; Chris Russell, director of security and assistant director of engineering, Montage Beverly Hills; Greg Black, senior systems administrator, Florida Power & Light; Ralph Nerette, manager, security services, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Mike Wiley, senior VP of security for Switch data centers; Ron Self, director of safety and security, Blytheville, Ark., Public Schools; Demerle Lewis, security manager, New York State Insurance Fund; Nicholas Santillo, director of operations security, American Water; and Dante Moriconi, physical security manager, L-3 Communication Systems-West.