New Level of Control
Beaumont, Calif., city officials are no longer looking over their shoulders. Keeping track of people is second nature to police officers, so when the staff at city hall and the police department began seeing people entering their offices unannounced, they became concerned.
Located in the San Gorgonio Mountain Pass just east of Los Angeles, Beaumont is home to nearly 30,000 residents. According to Brian Modrak, IS manager for the city, far too many of those residents knew the codes to gain access to city hall and the police department. “We had been using doors with punch pads and codes, and some of our employees’ children were punching in codes to visit mom and dad, even if mom and dad weren’t working that day,” he says. “It seemed that everyone in Beaumont had our codes.”
Modrak knew he needed to do something. “Our main interest was being able to track who came and went into city hall and the police department,” he says. “We had used ID cards in the past, but they didn’t have any specific function. We were supposed to have them with us all the time, but nobody carried them around because they didn’t do anything.”
In consultation with experts from Pacific Alarm Service, Beaumont, Modrak recommended a card key access system for city hall and the police department using ID cards as an integral component. Dale Williams of Pacific Alarm remembered that Modrak wanted to be able to print the cards at city hall, and he specifically wanted high quality, two-sided cards. Williams recommended the Fargo Persona C30 Card Printer.
The city set up an access control system, purchased the printer and began creating proximity cards. Proximity cards need only be held close to a card reader to engage. Now, every time someone scans a card to enter a door, the system records that information into a log and tracks who comes and goes. It’s a vast improvement, according to Modrak.
Another benefit of using ID cards for access control involves former employees. “In the past, if someone left, we would have to change the code for everyone,” Modrak says. “With 200 employees, it was not uncommon to have someone leaving.” Now, the employee’s card can simply be invalidated. Likewise, stolen or lost cards can be deactivated. Darci Carranza, special projects manager for the city, has the system programmed to put a report on a deactivated card so if someone tries to use it, she will know. “We are simply securing our system a little better,” she says.
The Fargo printer enables Carranza to produce a variety of card designs to provide visual identity to different groups of users. The fire department, for example, uses an easily identifiable red checkerboard pattern for its card, which acts as a master card for all city office doors. Carranza estimates there are more than 10 different card designs, providing unique visual identification for different groups.
In addition, the cards can be programmed to allow access only during certain hours or only to certain areas. “In the past, I had vendors punching in a code from six months ago,” Modrak says. “Apparently, they had watched me over my shoulder as I accessed the room. I once had a vendor walk into my server room ahead of me. I wasn’t too thrilled about that.” Now, if the city wants to give a vendor or a visitor access, it can also add a time limit. “There is even a card for the person who runs our street sweeper,” Modrak says. “We put card access controls on the gate to our city yard, and the individual only has access to the gate to unload the sweeper and drive back out.”
“Initially, we just wanted to put better controls on the city hall and the police department,” Modrak says. “Then we started to see how much we could do with the cards themselves and came up with new ideas for how to use them.”
“The quality of the printing, especially for the photos, has made a big difference in how we use the ID cards,” he adds. “No one in town can copy these cards.” Printer features important to Modrak were the ability to handle cards smoothly and dual-side printing. “This is especially important with the police department,” he says, “because the front serves as an officer’s identification, and the back includes vital statistics, such as height, weight and blood type. These are all very important pieces of information for us. The photo has to look like the person, and the small information on the back has to be absolutely readable.”
“We didn’t consider cost at all, which is my favorite kind of project,” he adds. “We wanted to get what was going to work the best.”
Modrak already has ideas for additional uses for the city’s ID cards. He would like to implement a “kid finder” program to help parents track children who might be lost or abducted. Information on a child is put onto an ID card and kept in the city’s database. One copy of the card is given to the child, with emergency numbers and tips about what to do if in trouble. Another card is for parents, with the child’s height, weight and blood type, so they don’t have to think about these details in an emergency. It also lists whom to call and what kind of information to share. Data on the child can be e-mailed to law enforcement agencies globally, if needed.
Modrak also imagines using ID cards for the city’s day camp program after school. “It would be easy to use an ID card with a barcode to track attendance,” he says, “and it would provide more security for parents. We could produce a photo ID card for anyone authorized to pick up a child.”
He also envisions using ID cards as bus passes for students who ride public transportation. The child would scan his or her card, and the city would have a record of where a child was picked up and dropped off. It could even track the number of uses for billing public transportation.
The printer, currently located in city hall, has produced an estimated 1,000 cards since purchase. It is shared via a network, making it convenient for anyone with the software to print cards. The printer, however, is secured so not everyone has access to the cards themselves. “Even if the network is compromised, no one can physically get a card,” Modrak says. “We have several layers of security built in. It feels like a very secure system.”
Everyone is pleased with the level of control the city has gained by knowing who is coming in the back office. “Nobody can look over my shoulder and watch me punch in a code,” Modrak says. “I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate that. Now if I see someone behind our door, I know they belong there.”