A look at how several large enterprises handle security challenges in the Southern California area, site of this year's ASIS International Seminar and Exhibits.
When security professionals travel to Southern California this month to attend the ASIS International 55th Annual Seminar and Exhibits, they will be in the center of a densely populated and diverse region. The businesses and government agencies that operate in the area must deal with a variety of challenges, from terrorism to budget constraints. The following case studies look at how four companies in the region are meeting security challenges.
Port of Long Beach
The Port of Long Beach covers 3,200 acres and is the second largest port in the United States. More than $140 billion in goods moves through the Port of Long Beach each year, including more than 7 million containers and more than 87 million metric tons of cargo.
To enhance its ability to watch over these assets, the port authority unveiled a new command and control center in February. The authority funded most of the $21 million cost for the project with a $17 million federal grant.
The primary function of the three-story control and command center, complete with rooftop heliport, is to house the port’s own security operations, but it also makes space available for representatives from various state and federal agencies that require a presence at the port. Customs and Border Protection, the Long Beach Police Department, the Marine Exchange of Southern California, the neighboring Port of Los Angeles, and the U.S. Coast Guard all have offices in the control center.
Because the command center is so vital to the security of the port, it is itself protected by 23 digital cameras and 44 access-control card readers that are located everywhere from the building entry points to elevators, granting access to each floor. Everyone with daily access gets a photo ID/access card. That includes the approximately 60 full-time security officers, a nine-person police dive team, administrative staff, and tenants.
Card access is also required to cross into the perimeter of the property, which is protected by a fence and gated entrance. Guests can contact security officers via intercom to be escorted inside.
Several features are designed to prevent any disruption in operations at the center. To make sure that communications remain open, the center has four redundant pathways for sending and receiving data. The facility also has a backup generator capable of supporting all of its functions for up to 24 hours. In addition, all of the center’s data is replicated and stored at a hot site in Phoenix.
Furthermore, because this is California, the building was constructed with earthquake survival in mind. For example, all of the center’s servers sit on rocking bases to prevent damage during tremors.
The heart of the command center is the primary operations center—a room filled with computers, phones, and a wall of 12 connected screens that give visual feedback from about 100 cameras maintained by the 12 terminals within the port and 130 cameras operated by the port authority itself. The port’s surveillance cameras include 33 thermal cameras and two military-grade cameras that can illuminate and capture clear images from a mile away.
In the operations center, staff members merge the surveillance information drawn from various entities within the port, including the terminals, which have their own security operations as well.
The command center digitizes every signal it receives so that the data can be easily shared if necessary. In addition, camera feeds are replicated, then separated from the original feed and encoded so that data from the original signal is masked. “This is done so that, if someone hacked into the command center network or servers, they could not tap into the source of the information, such as the cameras,” says Michael McMullen, lead project manager of the security division for the Port of Long Beach.
The camera feeds are integrated with information provided by the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which collects information on individual ships. This data includes the manifest and crew list as well as facts such as when the ship left its home port and whether it stopped along the way. Command staff can even pull up an insurance photo of a vessel to compare to the live images of a ship coming into port.
Using special software that stitches the camera images together, operations center staff can view the entire port on the wall of screens. Using simple point and click navigation, they can then pull up information on individual vessels or camera locations.
Though the data integration worked smoothly for the most part when the center first went live, there were glitches, according to McMullen. For example, the original plan was to use analytics for all of the cameras. However, the camera analytics were not accurate when used on water. So security now uses analytics on land and sonar on water.
Going forward, the center plans to implement more high-tech solutions to automate and integrate more data sources. For example, when harbor patrol officers go out on rounds, all of their actions are recorded in a video and audio log. When the officer returns, that log is downloaded and attached to the officer’s report for that shift. The report is put in storage for 40 days. However, if an incident occurs, the section covering that event is pulled out of the log and kept indefinitely.
To help streamline this process, the command center plans to purchase software that will allow officers to electronically flag an incident right after it occurs. When downloading the log, the software will automatically pull out the flagged portion and put it into long-term storage.
The Hollywood Entertainment Business Improvement District (BID) made 2,500 arrests in 1997, its first year of operation. Last year, that number was 1,800. People involved with the BID say that its efforts have helped to reduce crime in the area, which is down 10 percent since last year, a more significant decline than in other parts of the city.
So when The RAND Corporation issued a report earlier this year concluding that BIDs in the Los Angeles area have led to significant reductions in robbery rates, Bill Farrar was not surprised. Farrar is senior vice president of operations and business development for Andrews International, which oversees both the Hollywood BID and a second BID in the area. He says that the organization’s philosophy is the reason for its success. Instead of adopting a law enforcement mentality, the BID officers strive to provide services that the police cannot. “We aren’t here to replace the police,” says Farrar. “We are here to problem solve.”
A BID is a public-private partnership in which property owners pay additional taxes for extra services such as street cleaning, landscaping, and security. In Los Angeles, the security aspect, which is provided by a third party, accounts for 50 to 60 percent of the BIDs’ budget. The BID benefits area businesses because they receive supplementary services and it helps the city because it does not have to find a way to fund and provide the services the BID handles. For the end users, there’s a savings as well. For example, Andrews can provide security for one-third of the cost of police.
As noted, Andrews oversees two Los Angeles BIDs. The Hollywood Entertainment BID includes approximately 520 businesses and spans about 18 blocks. The second, the Sunset/Vine BID, was established in 2007 and covers an asymmetrical area of about 250 businesses. The BIDs are adjacent and together cover about seven square miles.
The headquarters for both BIDs is located in the Hollywood and Highland retail center, an upscale mall that includes shops, restaurants, nightclubs, a bowling alley, and the renowned Kodak Theatre, which hosts the Academy Awards and other high-profile events.
The BIDs’ 30 officers are mostly retired police; they operate in teams of 15 persons. Officers conduct foot patrols to establish a rapport with the community. The officers do not have police powers so, if they encounter lawbreaking, they make private person’s arrests. However, under an agreement with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), they can bring perpetrators to the BID offices and hold them there until they can be transferred to the nearest police station. Without this agreement, officers would be required to call the police and wait for them wherever the suspect was apprehended. Every arrest is put into a computer tracking system, and the results are shared with police.
The BIDs’ relationship with the LAPD is crucial. The two groups work closely together and the BID office also doubles as an LAPD substation.
An example of the level of cooperation is the weekly LAPD crime-control meeting. The meeting is designed to allow police captains to discuss crime trends and possible solutions. The BIDs are part of the meeting and offer reports each week.
Similarly, the BIDs are included in major police operations occurring in the area. For example, during protests, a BID representative is present at the police command center and is able to relay information, such as the number of protesters and any possible violence, to property owners who are members of the BIDs.
The BIDs also interface with private security personnel employed directly by companies in the district. For example, if a crime occurs, business owners call the BID directly instead of the LAPD. For these businesses, the BID provides a command presence and helps to deescalate volatile situations. This service is designed to improve security and save the LAPD from having to handle minor calls for service.
Mike Harkins, executive security director for Hollywood and Highland, uses the BID to deal with security challenges unique to his operation. “Our open-air facility has four nightclubs,” notes Harkins. “This can present a challenge at closing time when patrons exit the bars and are still on our property.”
If a fight breaks out, for example, Harkins can contact the BID via radio through his dispatch center. This resource works well and allows the BID to respond quickly, according to Harkin. For example, after the recent death of Michael Jackson, both the international media and distraught fans gathered near Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star is located outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre within the Hollywood Entertainment BID. Minor skirmishes broke out among visitors, but BID officers responded quickly and peacefully resolved the altercations by separating the participants and then maintaining a presence to prevent further conflicts.
“Obviously the LAPD would have responded to the incident,” says Harkin. “But they are likely dealing with far more serious crimes. In these cases, the use of BID personnel pays dividends.”
Though liaising with police and businesses is important, Farrar considers community outreach the cornerstone of BID operations. The BIDs work with social agencies such as those that advocate for the homeless or address drug abuse or prostitution issues. The priority is to improve quality of life and this doesn’t necessarily translate into arrests. “We would rather talk someone into rehab than arrest them,” says Farrar.
This outreach is undertaken with the full support and consultation of the LAPD, the city attorney’s office, and city public works and health agencies. The coordinated effort makes a difference in the outcome, says Harkins.
Harkins meets with BID officers, other private security leaders, and advocacy groups each month to devise long-range plans for addressing community problems. For example, at a July meeting, participants discussed plans for handling traffic and crowds for the Independence Day holiday. Other items on the agenda included the activity of a prolific graffiti artist and a recent rash of vehicle burglaries in a local parking structure.
The cooperative effort also means that advocacy groups are on call to deal with problems on a case-by-case basis. “We can call the groups serving the homeless population, and they will come out and consult with an individual who is sleeping on the street,” says Harkins.
The culmination of the BIDs’ dedication to community service is Connect Day. The event, hosted by a private business, brings service providers together in one location. A homeless person can come that day and be connected with groups that provide medical resources, social services, and mental health expertise.
The police are on hand to help clear up warrants that might prevent people from getting help. The Department of Motor Vehicles is available to address issues such as lapsed licenses. Charity organizations provide hotel vouchers and resources for getting food.
“Our goal is to bring people in and help them make contact,” says Farrar. “To get them into the various systems so they can get help.”
The Connect Day puts a human face on the problems that, left unchecked, can lead to crime and violence. By addressing the issues at the root of criminal behavior, the BIDs hope to prevent such behavior from ever occurring. “It’s sobering to see how many people show up with families,” says Farrar. “These people want jobs, a place to live. We try to help with that.”
The Bronson Gate that Billy Wilder made famous in Sunset Blvd. still stands where it was erected in 1926—the year Paramount Studios opened at its current location in Hollywood, California. However, the ornate, wrought-iron structure is now inside the new entryway, which is equipped with barriers and is staffed with security guards. It is no longer possible to drive up to the gate as Norma Desmond did; vehicles cannot maneuver around the concrete bollards.
In addition to being a part of film history, the gate represents the challenge faced by security professionals at the studio. They must keep the magic of the movies alive for employees, production workers, guests, and visitors while addressing the practical need to protect people and property at the only remaining major movie studio in Hollywood.
During peak season, Paramount employs more than 5,000 people who work on the 62-acre site. The actors and production staff produce movies, television shows, and commercials on the studio’s 30 sound stages and many back lot sets.
A movie studio the size of Paramount requires numerous resources not common to most workplaces. While some of these functions—such as the full-service restaurant, the dry cleaners, and the credit union—are provided for convenience, others serve more vital purposes. For example, the studio has its own fire department and an aggressive fire-prevention program. Similarly, an on-site medical clinic is staffed with registered nurses who have trauma experience.
The 65-member proprietary security team receives training in CPR and all security supervisors receive some EMT training. “This type of training is critical for security because our officers are often the first responders during off hours,” according to Louis Lam, executive director of security services for Paramount.
Security officers work in three shifts and patrol all buildings on foot. They use a guard tour system to report safety issues and potential fire hazards to the studio’s on-site command center.
At the command center, officers monitor feeds from the studio’s 200 cameras and 23 perimeter and intrusion alarms. The perimeter alarms are integrated with the camera feeds. When an alarm is triggered, nearby cameras automatically focus on the location of the alarm. The center is also charged with responding to the panic alarms installed on all perimeter gates.
Fire alarms are a special case. Fire personnel are on duty around the clock and extra staff are brought in during high-risk filming involving the use of fire or explosions. Fire alarms feed both to the control center and to an off-site monitoring company. Both parties respond to any fire alarm.
Security maintains several levels of access control to the studio. Employees are vetted before being hired, and once on staff, they are issued a photo ID that also serves as a proximity access control card.
Some people must report to the studio on a regular basis for a specific project but are not studio employees. This category might include actors or members of production crews. The production company conducts background checks on these individuals, who are then issued a photo ID. However, these people must check in with security to gain access.
Extras, who might only visit the studio once in connection with a production, are issued a paper badge good for one day only. Security works with Central Casting to get an electronic list of the extras in advance. Security then prints out the passes for each individual and marks them off the master list when they arrive.
In addition to dealing with the day-to-day activities of the studio, the security team is also responsible for protecting guests at special events. These gatherings range from small VIP parties and movie premieres to large public events.
The smaller parties are by invitation only and are usually held at one of the studio’s back lots. For example, a popular party spot is the New York Street back lot. This permanent set is a city street scene that has been used to film exteriors for a variety of famous shows from Laverne and Shirley to Seinfeld.
These events usually include around 1,500 to 5,000 guests. From 10 to 12 security officers in black suits patrol the area to protect the set and create a perimeter to prevent guests from wandering off.
The security presence at such parties is intended to be unobtrusive. “We stay out of the way,” says Lam. “But, if we are needed for security or medical reasons, we can respond in a moment’s notice.”
Public events are handled differently. Unlike the private parties with controlled guest lists and behind-the-scenes security, public events feature defined access points and high-profile officers.
“The main goal with these types of events is…to help control the crowd and to protect property, such as sets and memorabilia,” says Lam. To do this, security sets up parking across the street from the studio. People enter through perimeter gates and must go through metal detectors. Backpacks and tote bags are prohibited, and all purses are searched.
Approximately 20 to 30 security officers are on duty for these events. Wearing uniforms to ensure visibility, officers block off access to the studio from the event location and require attendees to travel along specific routes. This measure helps officers spot people trying to sneak into the studio.
Dealing with large public gatherings is security’s biggest challenge, according to Lam. “People can buy tickets to these events online,” he says. “We can’t control who gets in, so we must be able to control the crowd after people arrive.”
Ferguson Enterprises, Inc., founded in 1953, is the largest plumbing supply company in the United States, and the second largest supplier of appliances and air conditioning units. Headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, with a satellite headquarters office in Pomona, California, the company has more than 19,000 employees and approximately 1,400 locations throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
It’s not surprising that, especially in these tough economic times, the company’s mantra for security expenditures is that they must be based on risk and must be cost effective.
The security function at Ferguson operates on two levels, says Scott Hewitt, CPP, director of corporate security for Ferguson. Hewitt and his team oversee corporate security, and they provide individual locations with a standardized security framework. After a location is up and running, the manager of the facility can make changes to security in consultation with the corporate function.
As Hewitt explains, this configuration emerged during a period of expansion. “Facilities were opening very quickly,” he says. “We wanted a cookie-cutter approach that we could start with.”
Under this program, each facility is outfitted with standard fire and burglar alarms to be monitored off-site by a national monitoring service. If any additional measures are needed, corporate security is called in.
Surveillance systems are considered additional measures, according to Hewitt. Only about 200 facilities have cameras. And in many of those locations, the cameras are installed in response to specific incidents. For example, early this year, copper theft was on the rise, so managers at one facility moved the copper piping from an outside lot to an inside location and installed two cameras.
Facility managers, who rarely have any security training, often come up with creative and cost-effective solutions, says Hewitt. For example, one location was experiencing a series of thefts. High-end water heaters valued at $1,000 each were going missing from the showroom area of the facility, which was open to the public. Managers at the facility suspected insider theft. It turned out to be opportunistic, professional thieves.
Instead of installing a standard security camera, which would have alerted employees and cost thousands of dollars, managers purchased an off-the-shelf “nanny cam” for $300. Two days after managers hid the camera on a rack of merchandise, three men walked into the store minutes after it opened. They brought appliance dollies, loaded up three water heaters, and left. The employees, who were in another area of the store preparing cash registers for the day, didn’t even see the robbery.
Store managers reported the incident to police and circulated photos of the thieves they had caught on camera. While the perpetrators have yet to be apprehended, Hewitt says the incident was valuable. “We really thought it was an inside job,” he says. “The camera proved otherwise.”
In another instance, a facility had a problem with vagrants jumping over one particular section of perimeter fence and sleeping on company property. The facility manager purchased a hunting camera for around $100. These cameras use motion sensors to snap photos of wildlife that hunters can then use to determine what sorts of animals are in the area. When vagrants tripped the motion sensor, the camera took a flash photo, startling the intruder. The activity stopped completely after the camera was installed.
While corporate security is always available to help if a manager’s plans don’t work out, Hewitt says that his department is careful not to dismiss a solution because it is temporary. “A band aid is not always a bad thing,” he notes.
For example, at one large facility, employees’ cars were being stolen from the parking lot. The facility already had a security camera trained on the area, but the thieves seemed to realize that they could steal cars from the back of the lot and avoid the camera. That gave police little evidence to go on for investigations. Workers were frustrated.
The manager knew that an access-controlled gate would be the optimal solution but it would be costly and would take time to implement. As a stop-gap measure, he suggested that they put a chain across the entrance to the parking lot and focus the security camera on that chain. It would require that the thieves stop, get out of the car, and unhook the chain—all in full view of the camera. The solution was both inexpensive and effective. The car thefts stopped completely after the chain was installed.
Hewitt anticipates that the company will see more creative solutions to security challenges as a response to the economic crisis. “We are always looking for low-cost solutions,” he says. “But, it doesn’t always have to be a typical solution.”