Protecting The Protectors
Often cited as a retirement and vacation Mecca, Sarasota, Fla., with its 35 miles of beaches and ample opportunities for recreational and cultural activities is nevertheless a complex city serving a diverse population that includes college students, retirees, business travelers and tourists. In tourist season, the population of approximately 52,860 swells to between 150,000 and 200,000 people, including college students, retirees, business travelers and tourists.
With reasonably-priced housing, low taxes, theaters, museums and golf courses, the city’s attractions are abundant. Crime, unfortunately, is also an unwelcome visitor to the city. Recently, the Sarasota Police Department, long vigilant in protecting the community from crime, upgraded its own facilities with a state-of-the-art integrated access control system.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, the department decided to replace an existing manual combination lock system with an integrated electronic access control/video system. In August 2003, a Lenel Systems International Inc. OnGuard Go! system was installed in the four-story police headquarters building, which houses approximately 204 sworn officers and 80 civilian personnel. The system uses Recognitions Systems Inc. (RSI) hand geometry readers and incorporates both access control and CCTV, along with alarm monitoring and ID management.
Lieutenant Gerry Lacertosa of the Support Services Division administers the system with the help of MIS administrator Jerice Wing and system administrator Crystal Sutton. Lacertosa, a 27-year veteran of the department, helped develop the original specifications for the new program.
Security Upgrade A Proactive Measure
Lacertosa emphasizes that the decision to install the access control system was proactive. “We wanted to protect our employees and the public we serve,” he says, noting that incidents were minimal.
Nevertheless, over the year the system has been in place, what few significant incidents there were have been eliminated, he says. New outdoor cameras covering the periphery of the 46,000-square-foot building and approximately 100-space parking lot have proved to be particularly useful.
“Before we installed exterior periphery and parking lot cameras, for instance, we did have some vandalism. On one occasion, two unmarked cars in our back parking lot were damaged and one was set on fire,” Lacertosa says. “There may have been some vandalism to employee vehicles as well. But, there have been no incidents in the parking lot since we have had the new security system.”
The system protects both the public and the police, he adds. For instance, the police are protected from liability in the case of false claims of injury, while the public is protected in situations if actual mistreatment by a police officer were to occur.
“Someone may complain they weren’t treated properly by an officer at the front desk, for instance,” Lacertosa says. “We can generate reports from our system that tell us exactly who was on duty at the time. And, our cameras give us a record as well, so that we can protect the department against false claims of mistreatment.”
Upgrade Facilitates Internal Management
Previously, the department used manual pushbutton combination locks to gain access from the exterior to the interior. One of the system’s drawbacks was that an unauthorized person — such as a prisoner being transported into the station — could overhear or see the combination. “It wasn’t very secure,” Lacertosa says. “And, we had no record of access. When an employee was terminated, we would have to change the combination.”
With the new system, the department can monitor and limit employee access to designated areas and times. “If someone is terminated, we can immediately deny access. We keep the front lobby door open all the time, for the public, while most of our employees get access through private entrances protected by proximity readers.” Lacertosa says. “We put in exterior cameras, and connected all the cameras to our access control system. We have an outside cleaning crew, for instance, that works specific hours, places and times, and we can now program their access levels.”
The department is divided into four divisions: Uniform Services, Criminal Investigations, Professional Standards, and Support Services. Support Services is responsible for most non-operational activities which enable the department to provide law enforcement services, including emergency management responses, communications, alarm enforcement, management information services, fleet management and building maintenance. Special response units include S.W.A.T., crisis/hostage negotiations, explosive materials unit, and the dive team.
Internally, areas that require authorized access include the computer lab, armory, crime lab and property and evidence vault.
Integrated Access Control/CCTV
The Lenel system used by the Sarasota Police Department has a single chassis/CPU that houses the database server and digital video server in a single unit. Multiple CCTV cameras can be connected directly to the chassis, with 8-, 16- and 24- channel (camera) configurations available. The systems can also be expanded beyond 24 channels. Alarm monitoring and ID credential management are included in the software applications.
Operators can view and manage both access control events and digital video footage from the same workstation, explains Tim Rose, director of engineered systems group, Security One Systems Inc., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the integrator that installed the system.
“The system allows them to link video cameras, access and alarm events,” Rose says. “If a door is propped open, this will call the camera up and link the video recording to the security event,” Rose says. “When the alarm message appears on the screen, there will also be an icon that the operator can select to bring up the video, or, the system can be set up so the video will appear automatically.”
Emphasizing Ease of Use
“The OnGuard system is located in one server in the department’s server room, and is connected to a dedicated monitor that allows access to the server in order to make any changes. This server is connected directly by a Cat-5 cable to a workstation in the system administrator’s office that consists of a standalone PC station.
The workstation enables the system administrator to monitor cameras located both within and outside the building. The system can split the computer screen to view multiple cameras at once, or zoom in on a single camera point for a full-screen view. The cameras can also be monitored from the front desk.
“I enter each person into the system, and distribute a key fob to them,” explains Sutton, the system administrator. Employees are given access to exterior doors, protected by Lenel proximity readers using HID key fobs. Internally, RSI Handkey II hand geometry readers are used. “Employees enter their ID number onto a keypad and then place their hand on the reader. Only certain people are allowed into certain areas,” Sutton continues. “I make sure people only have the access they are allowed, by programming that access into the system. And, when people are terminated, their access is cancelled.”
Pelco brackets, housing and wall mounts are used for cameras and readers. Cameras are mostly Panasonic 474 series, according to Rose, with a Pelco Genex multiplexer. Cameras cover interior hallways, lobby areas and doors; and exterior locations, including the parking lot.
Advantages of Biometric Technology
Biometric technology was chosen over card readers because of convenience and accuracy. “You cannot lose a hand,” Lacertosa says. “If you have an injury to one hand, you can then register the other one.” The readers are mounted on the outside of the secure doors, and additionally require keypad access.
The technology measures the size and shape of the hand, which is programmed into the system when the employee is registered. The hand is placed palm-down on the reader with fingers placed between pegs. The system reads the handprint and, if it matches the keypad code and registered print, the magnetic door plug is released.
“An audible alarm will sound if the door is propped open too long,” Lacertosa continues. “We don’t want police officers propping doors for any length of time. If this does happen, we can run a report to determine who opened it.”
The department has one primary Lenel 2000 Intelligent Controller, along with a series of sub-control panels, which connect different functions including readers, biometric devices door control devices (such as inputs, outputs, locks, alarm contacts and exit request sensors to the system) to the server.
If the department wants to find a specific time and date, the information can be obtained from the DVR or the hand readers. “This gives us much more control over the building than we had before because we have records of the dates and times specific people enter,” Lacertosa says.
He notes that there is a 1,000-person jail across the street from the department, and that people visiting prisoners often stand just outside the police department building. “We had one incident in which the system picked up someone repeatedly hitting the keypad at one of our exterior entrances. The system denied entrance to the person, and we were able to view the incident on camera,” Lacertosa says. The camera revealed a child using the keypad, and the officers were able to address the problem immediately.