'Home Safe Home' Is Your Building Secure?

'Home Safe Home'

Every 11 seconds a burglary is committed in the United States, according to the Department of Justice's

most recent annual Unified Crime Reports. Even Mayor Giuliani, who is perpetually promoting the decrease in crime in New York, is not immune. His doorman co-op on East 86th Street was burglarized in August. The subtenants, who were away for a long weekend, returned to find the apartment broken into and thousands of dollars worth of jewelry stolen. It is unclear how the apartment was broken into but somewhere along the line the basic security rules were breached.

The Basic Rules

Every building should remind residents regularly to follow certain basic safety rules. Don't give your key out to just anyone; instead, notify the doorman when someone needs to have access to your apartment. If you don't live in a doorman building, don't grant entry to anyone you don't know. And, of course, never open your apartment door to anyone you don't know. Make sure that all outer doors in the lobby remain closed and locked. If the lock on the lobby door is broken, report it immediately to the superintendent or the managing agent. The same can be said for burned-out light bulbs in common areas and stairways. Well lit areas help deter wrong-doing and add an element of safety for residents.

According to Al Simon, president of New Jersey-based Nortronics Corp., a company that specializes in security installation and service, the first line of defense for keeping your building secure is the front door. The simplest, but most often forgotten, safety precaution is to keep people who don't belong in the building out of the building. This is not stressed enough, says Simon. Unless you positively know who they are, don't let strangers in. This is fundamental. It is better to be careful. This is crucial to the entire security of the building. Simon also stresses the importance of ensuring that the doorman carefully screens all visitors. Visitors must see the doorman, and the doorman must get authorization from the tenant to allow the visitor in.

Security Devices

In addition to adherence to this golden rule, the building should have a minimum of security devices in place. If the building decides to install cameras to monitor the activities by the door, make sure the cameras are installed at all the entrances. It is important to make sure that there are cameras at the front entrance, service entrance and the roof door. They should go anywhere someone can gain access to the building, explains Matthew Arnold, president of Academy Mailbox and Intercom, a firm that specializes in intercoms and closed circuit television (CCTV). You want to have at least the minimum equipment to keep the building secure. Then you may decide to go for more advanced security such as a magnetic lock controlled door with card access and maybe a video intercom.

Keyless entry systems are also becoming popular for non-doorman buildings. Similar to most hotel door locks, each resident is given a card with a magnetic strip like that on a credit card. That strip holds unique information that will release the magnetic bolt on the door when swiped through a special slot. If the card is lost, it can be voided without having to replace the lock or keys for each and every resident. In the event that the lock is broken off the door, a short in the wires will prevent the door f ffb rom unlocking. This device is becoming popular for non-doorman buildings. It allows extra security and more convenience in the event that a card is lost, Arnold states. Right now, however, it is something that you most likely see on the front doors of buildings and not on individual units because it would be incredibly time consuming and expensive to install. You might eventually see it in new construction.

Operation Interlock/Interwatch

Some buildings have installed a panic button in the doorman area that will set off an alarm and notify the police in case of an emergency. Buildings can also participate in the city's Operation Interlock/Interwatch program. The program was introduced in the mid-1970s by the Association for a Better New York and has been expanding ever since. For a registration fee of $365 and the purchase of a $1,100 walkie-talkie with a special ID chip, doormen, security patrolmen and building employees can have a direct link to the police station enabling them to bypass 911. When the walkie-talkie is activated by a participant, the building address and other pertinent information will appear on a screen at the central base station followed immediately with voice communication from the station. In addition to being able to alert the police, participants can also summon Emergency Medical Services and the fire department through the central department. Participants are also alerted to potential problems in their vicinity.

The program has grown steadily from its early days to approximately 700 participating groups in Manhattan and five in Queens. You can barely walk up Park Avenue without tripping over an Interwatch participant, says Jo-Ann Polise, program director for Operation Interlock/Interwatch. We're dealing with people who have taken on a little more with their jobs. These are mostly doormen and they really take a great responsibility for their buildings and their neighborhoods. At present the program is only available in Manhattan and Queens.

Security Cameras

Security cameras are also becoming very popular. But before jumping on the bandwagon, it is important to work with a reputable security company that will make sure your building installs the right equipment for your individual needs. You want the security company to survey the residence to see what areas are vulnerable and to recommend the proper equipment that will work best for that building, says Diana Darlington, vice president of customer relations at Bronx-based Jordan Intercom Systems. If you decide to use cameras you then have to determine if you want the images viewed or recorded. Do you want to view them on a television set or special monitor? These are all questions a security specialist will help you answer depending on your building's needs.

The placement of the cameras is also important in the deterrence of crime. For example, you may want to make sure that the cameras on the outside of the building are visible. The idea of illicit activity being monitored can deter interlopers. In areas inside the building, like the elevators and laundry room, the cameras may serve a better purpose if they are hidden. Stealth cameras are the best defense in these locations, explains Arnold. When the person does not know it's there, you can catch them in the act. This works great in a situation where laundry is missing from the machine. You can also have the images recorded with a seven to ten day backup in case someone reports an incident that occurred earlier in the week. All you have to do is go to the backup tape and catch the person committing the crime. Nortronics recently installed a hidden camera in the ceiling of a mahogany elevator that had been repeatedly defaced with graffiti. After this installation the culprits were quickly identified and the vandalism stopped.

Security cameras can produce either black and white or color pictures, but according to Darlington, the color CCTVs are still expensive. Most buildings start out with a black and white system; however many of our clients are starting to ffb look at color systems, because technological advances are expected to lower these prices in about two years.

What is becoming a trend in buildings without doormen is the integration of the video security system with residents' TVs. By setting aside a separate channel, each resident, with or without cable, can access the view from all the security cameras. In 1996 we installed more security systems in non-doorman buildings than at any other time in our 32-year history, states Simon. We have found that in a typical 50-unit building as many as half the residents may watch the security channel at any given time. Many residents even keep the channel on throughout the day as they're passing from room to room in their apartments. This attention to security increases the likelihood of an incident taking place in a laundry room or other out-of-the-way area of the building being reported. No doorman or security guard can possibly cover that much territory at once.

Protecting Your Apartment

In addition to securing the common areas of the building, it is also important to make sure your own apartment is safe. The same rules apply in terms of letting someone in the front door. Do not open your door to strangers. If someone claims to be from the cable company or Con Edison, and you did not request them, ask for their employee ID and call the company they are claiming to represent. At building meetings, reiterate to the residents the importance of not letting in people they don't recognize. Even if it may seem rude, it needs to be done, Darlington suggests. Use more than one lock with a drop bolt lock. If you have more than two locks, leave one unlocked to add a little confusion because they may not be sure if they are all locked or not. Get a peep hole M-interviewer' like the one Door Spy offers that allows you to see in four directions. And if you live on the ground floor, or near a fire escape, you may want to get security gates.

Security For the New Millennium

Although some of the tried and true methods of security will still apply by the time the year 2000 rolls around, there may be some new and incredibly hi-tech security devices on the market. In fact we are already seeing some of it today with the keyless entry systems and video intercoms. By this time you definitely want to think color, Arnold states. Color images are better than black and white. In two to three years the cost will be reasonable and competitive so you will definitely see a lot of color CCTV and color video intercoms.

The idea of biometricswhich have been around for quite a while in science fiction moviesis closer to becoming a reality in the security industry. For example, it will be possible to use the palm of your hand to identify who you are and unlock doors for you, Simon explains. He also mentions a device that will scan your eye to make a positive identification. This may be more difficult to do because of proper positioning of the eye. But both methods are definitely conceivable, and more effective than today's methods, in keeping strangers out of the building.

The idea is not to scare people and cause paranoia. But there's no denying that all it takes is one security measure to be broken for something to happen. According to Darlington, the best security is to be aware and take care of each other. She adds, Remember that your sixth sense is pretty good.

Ms. Cooper is Editorial/Internet Coordinator of The Cooperator. For a list of security tips call (212) 697-1318 ext. 11.

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Comments

  • How would you go about setting up a door cam what do I need to buy ? I have a Lorex ipsc1240 going to my sepret computer with a VGA adaptor to Svideo and a audio to a vcr right now but thats just to recored how would i transmit this over a higher chan and not disrupt the cable of thows in my house but still give them the option to view the camera if needed my e-mail is Infected_Issues@hotmail.com