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Who goes there?

Friday, April 17, 2009

In the spirit of Friday, I like to post something a little silly, but still relevant to the world of security. This week's post came at a most unexpected time while I was babysitting my favorite two year old (I told you security really does follow me everywhere). Anyway, so we were winding down for the night and his absolute favorite show is the Backyardigans. Since I don't have kids and don't have cable, this series was completely new to me and low and behold this episode just happened to be about museum security guards. Both Seamus and I were enraptured by this, but probably for different reasons (he really likes the dancing part).

I had a discussion with Kevin O'Leary, the director of security at Maine General at a conference last year about his objection to the use of the term "guard." He feels very passionately about this topic and wrote a piece titled "'Don't call our security officers 'guards'" and I'm sure would not appreciate this episode or its depiction of security. Take a look, seriously, it's worth the view.

Just in case you missed some of those lyrics, I took the time to transcribe them for you:

Well better do my rounds
and make sure the museum is safe and sound

I'm on guard and I feel alright
gotta keep my eyes open stay alert all night
‘cause if there's any thieves in this old museum
I’ll have to chase them down, so I need to see ‘em

Look at all this ancient valuable stuff
I must protect it all is so I gotta be tough
I gotta stay stay awake and stay alert
with my security badge and my security shirt
but they don’t have a chance when I’m on the job
because I know how to chase them off yesiree bob

Not exactly the best message to send kids about the world of security, huh? Although, I have to say I think it's more constructive than all those security guard (I mean officer) movies hitting theaters. I mean, at least here they can dance, right?

More facial data

Friday, April 17, 2009

I posted this article on South Korea's biometrics in video surveillance study yesterday but here is 3VR's official blog post on the study, which the 3VR was ranked No.1 in accuracy. The images, and corresponding videos in Korean, are especially interesting too.

TWIC deadline is officially here

Thursday, April 16, 2009

So it's been years in the making folks, but we've finally reached the actual deadline for TWIC (well sort of, see here about the 'flexibility' granted some ports). While ports around the country have been rolling out TWIC for months now, the final implementation happened yesterday on April 14. Which makes me wonder, who chooses these dates anyway? If they were really thinking about the little guy, would they have picked the day before tax day? Talk about adding stress to people's lives. I'm sure it was some legislative-type who would never dream of filling out his or her own 1040.

Anyway, I spoke to the Jill Taylor, deputy director of homeland security for the Port of Los Angeles, for a story about field testing the biometric element of TWIC. The Port of L.A. implemented TWIC yesterday and she didn't want to talk about the roll-out so much. I probably could've gotten more out of her in terms of the expected transition to TWIC, but the answer is always pretty much the same - something along the lines of a smooth transition.

Turns out at least one article says that the transition isn't smooth sailing. The San Gabriel Tribune reports that more than 250 workers were denied entry to the port yesterday because they didn't have a TWIC card. Most of those denied were truck drivers, delivering and picking up goods. The Coast Guard does allow ports to escort individuals without TWIC cards on port property, but that's probably not viable for a huge port like L.A. who receives thousands of trucks a day and likely doesn't have the security personnel to escort many of the TWIC-less truckers.

"It's just chaos down there," said Dick Schroeder, owner of Bay Harbor Transport, who had several truck drivers denied entry to the port complex. "This is just ridiculous."

But, in all fairness, when you're talking about 67,000 workers and truck drivers in total, 250 really isn't so bad - that's less than 4 percent - I hardly think that equates to chaos. Just wait until they put in those biometric readers, now that's gonna be chaos.

Columbine: 10 years later

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We are busy putting the final touches on our May issue but I wanted to quickly post this article from USA Today on the truths behind the Columbine massacre. It's an interesting read and as I scrolled through it this morning, I came to the conclusion that no one can really be blamed for releasing inaccurate information. Any one of us would have hated to be in the position to investigate the shootings deaths of 13 high school students (15 if you include the gunman) and the reasons behind it. Any of us probably would have stumbled along the way as well.

The article outlines who Harris and Klebold really were and their true plans for that April day. To this day, it's still shocking to me, this event that first defined school security.

Even though we all wanted immediate answers at the time, the fact is that only time provides this kind of in-depth information.

Why is everyone always picking on me?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Well, there's a big security issue dominating the airwaves (NPR). News organizations (Boston Herald, OC Weekly) are talking about it, partly due to an op-ed piece submitted by AlliedBarton. The issue: Mall security guards are being misrepresented by Hollywood's portrayal of the "dopey" mall cop.

I know some of you saw Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which was released late last year. And if that wasn't enough mall security humor for you there is this weekend's Observe and Report, starring Seth Rogan, the hilarious guy from Knocked Up.

Do these movies portray mall guards in a less than perfect light? Yes. Does it harm the industry? Maybe. The public's view of security? Potentially. Is it funny? I guess you'll have to judge for yourself.

Hey, it must be a slow news day. I can imagine the budget meeting now.
Editor: Jimmy, what do you have for front page?
Jimmy: Well, we could lead with the pirate/hostage situation in Somalia especially since the captain being held hostage is from our great city.
Editor: Been done too many times. Next idea?
Jimmy: There was the job fair that stopped traffic yesterday. Nearly 10,000 people showed up.
Editor: Eh, that's not news — everyone knows were in the middle of a recession!
Jimmy: Well, there is that movie coming out this week about security guards.
Editor: That comedy that is like Paul Blart. Hmmm ... we could write an article on how Hollywood is picking on security guards. Perfect! Make some calls.

Hey, I don't condone making fun of any type of security guard. I have complete respect for them and the jobs they do on a daily basis, especially in llight of the fact that malls are an active shooter target. But let's be real: Every profession has been made fun of in the movies at one time or another. Journalists, editors, CEOs, police, you name it. We're are in the middle of some very tough economic times and we have to laugh sometimes and sometimes, that is going to be at someones expense.

We can't take ourselves too seriously. If we did, then we'd really be in trouble.

Security blunders

Friday, April 10, 2009

Somehow my conversations with friends keep steering towards the need for people to be more security conscious. I'm sure my recent grocery store experience (see previous blog) has largely contributed to this topic of discussion, but it's been interesting to hear how security plays a role in other people's lives (by other people, I mean people who don't think about security on a daily basis). So far, my impression is that it usually takes an event before someone becomes aware of security.

Anyway, here's a "fun" Friday example of someone who should be uber-conscious of security, instead being totally and completely negligent when it comes to security protocol. Here's the first graph:

Britain's top counter-terrorism official resigned Thursday after committing an embarrassing breach of security that forced police to prematurely launch raids against suspected Al Qaeda plotters.

This top-gun security official was photographed and videotaped carrying (yes carrying in his hands) top secret documents "whose contents about a terrorist investigation were clearly visible." I mean, honestly, who just carries documents around? You know this guy owns a briefcase or can at least get his hands on a plastic bag or something. Just ridiculous. As a result of the "security breach" police ran several raids just hours later knowing that the information on who they were targeting was out on the streets.

Quick, a 30-year police veteran, acknowledged his blunder in a statement, saying he regretted "the disruption caused to colleagues undertaking the operation" and was "grateful for the way in which they adapted quickly and professionally to a revised time scale."

Well, they really had no choice, did they? This guy probably put a lot of people in jeopardy. I guess it goes to show that even the most security-conscious of us still have a lot to work on.

How does this happen?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

After spending some time at Lamborghini's in Las Vegas last week, I am finding this news pretty shocking.

Businessman Eric Vargosko thought nothing of it (first mistake) when he handed the keys to his rare Lamborghini Gallardo Spider to the valet at the InterContinental in Atlanta's tony Buckhead section about two months ago, according to Atlanta TV station WSBTV. But by the time he checked out the next morning, the car had vanished.
It was found a month later - damaged.

How does a $284,000 car just walk (drive) out the door? (especially a car as flashy as this) Where was the Intercontinental's security department? What will happen to that valet? Is this all an insurance scam?

Here's the quote from the hotel:
"The hotel is doing everything they can to support the investigation and they are working with the insurance company," says Francie Schulwolf of InterContinental. "It’s a very unfortunate incident for the owner and hotel."

You can say that again. Better keep my Volvo away from the Intercontinental's valet staff. Now that baby is worth some big bucks.


My job followed me to the grocery store

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I'm a big fan of maintaining a separation between my work and personal life, but when you talk, write and think about security five days a week, sometimes it follows you home.

Take my routine visit to the grocery store, for example. I ran in with a friend to grab some food for dinner and while we were trying to decide on salsa I noticed a man in a heavy coat and wool hat staring at us. Granted, it's Maine in April, so it's not exactly balmy out, but nobody's sporting heavy winter gear anymore, so just the look of this guy was enough to make me suspicious. We moved along to the next aisle trying to ignore him, but sure enough he was standing there staring at us. He didn't have a cart or basket and was only half pretending to look at items, so I knew this guy wasn't at Hannaford's for the produce selection. My friend and I hurried to grab what we needed and went to check out.

As I was paying, a conversation I had had earlier with a security director of a transit authority came back to me: 'Security is everyone's responsibility' and 'If it doesn't look right, it probably isn't.' I couldn't ignore my security "training", so I approached a manager and told him about the guy, the whole time scanning the check-out lanes hoping he wasn't going to see me. The manager paged security and I don't know what happened after that, but I felt good knowing I had acted on my intuition and perhaps contributed to the safety and security of others. Sometimes it's a good thing to take work home (just don't tell my boss that).

My ISC West review

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I'm back in the office after a whirlwind week in Vegas for ISC West. Here are my main takeways:

*Vegas is always a good place to hold a conference. Regardless of the talk of how show attendance was going to be down, it was still quite well-attended. Some people who attended the CTIA show being held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the same days as ISC said traffic was considerably down as compared to last year. But security? The industry is not recession proof by any means but if the show is any indication, it is still pretty fairly strong.

*SDNtvNews is good. Not only are we bringing our readers interviews directly form the show floor but we are spending additional time at the booth, which allows us more direct contact with our readers. And because I was not running around the show floor as much, it saved my feet ... just a little.

* Twitter does actually work for event micro-blogging. And it works to let people know of "super secret" cocktail parties. And it helps you meet new people. That's not too shabby in my opinion.

*I didn't get much time to explore the Public Safety and Security Expo but it looked pretty much like Urban Security did last year. Anyone find it different? Extremely useful? Or was it just a waste of space?

*Parties were light this year. I've never been invited to the Pelco party so I was really surprised when I wasn't invited again this year. Missed the GE party — really not sure why — and I wish I hadn't (would have saved me in a sense). The Tyco and OV receptions were lovely as was DM's get together at Tao.

And now, on to your regularly scheduled work day.


Take your guns to school, son?

Monday, April 6, 2009

The long debated issue about whether registered gun owners should be allowed to bring guns on college campuses has reached the Texas legislature, reported the Brownsville Herald. I know Texas has a thing for guns, but I bet if you ask the security director of Virginia Tech, the answer would an unwaivering no. After all, Seung-Hui Cho, the student who killed 32 people in 2007 was a licensed gun owner.

The argument for guns on campus always seems a little counterintuitive to me. Here's a quote from the article:

Proponents of the bill view it as a way to preserve gun owners' rights while promoting safety on campus, arguing that if students or staff on campus had weapons, they would have a better chance defending themselves against a Virginia Tech-style shooting.

I've never talked to a college security director who promotes guns on campus, but I bet there are some out there. (If you're one them you should share your opinion with me, it could be a great story). Although guns can certainly provide protection and security (or a sense of these anyway) I don't think I'd feel comfortable knowing the guy next to me at the library who's strung out from days of cramming, too much caffeine and not enough sleep could be packing heat.