Solutions Snapshot - March 2011

QUESTION: What solutions can I employ to combat vandalism affecting my business?

Dave Wardell, Vice President, Operations & Public Safety, Central Atlanta Progress: Vandalism is a significant concern in urban areas, especially under challenged economic conditions when there are increased vacancies and cash flow shortages to make aesthetic and functional improvements.

It is important to apply the principles of "fixing broken windows": Keep the area clean and maintained, and occupied with persons/staff where possible. This would include inviting streetscapes and adequate street lighting. The presence of people and activity are the most effective deterrents to crime.

In the Downtown Atlanta Improvement District, the Ambassador Force and Clean Team, along with off-duty hired mobile police (24/7) enhance City services to keep Downtown safe and clean. These enhanced services also include monitoring vacant properties, enforcing urban camping and criminal trespass affidavits.

Another important key component is to organize other constituent groups - such as security officers, property managers, residents and other watch groups - to join in the effort to monitor, report and eradicate graffiti, vandalism and other nuisance crimes.

Fredrik Nilsson, General Manager, Axis Communications Inc.: Because the majority of vandalism happens at night, those without 24/7 guard support must rely on technology. Remote access to your cameras is important, as is camera detection intelligence that pushes you video alerts to verify if a threat is worth investigating. But for these alerts to work, image quality is crucial, especially at night.

True day/night cameras and IR illuminators are proven tools, but you might also consider thermal technology. The cost for thermal has come down and detection in darkness is more accurate because images are generated by heat, not light. Selecting vandal-resistant products is important, but so are embedded camera tampering alarms. This feature will alert you if a camera has been moved, blocked or spray painted.

If you already have these safeguards in place and vandalism is still a problem, you might consider hosted video and remote monitoring. While technology is great, nothing will ever replace the human eye and intuition.

Ray Bernard, principal, Ray Bernard Consulting Services: Although high-tech solutions tend to get lots of attention, sometimes low-tech approaches can be very effective.

For example, at one school where a particular wall was the continuing target of graffiti, the security consultant recommended a low-tech design I like to call the "graffiti hose." The design utilizes a flat lawn sprinkling hose, a motion detector, and an electrically operated valve. The hose was run along the edge of the roof, and the motion detector used to "water" the wall when someone approached.

Since the spray paint wouldn't "take" on the wet wall, the vandals stopped trying.
In one neighborhood where a series of walls was frequently marked with gang symbols, repainting the walls was a significant effort. One resident approached a gang caught in the act, and offered to buy them paint if they would design and paint a series of murals on the wall.

The walls now add to the class of the neighborhood, rather than detract from it.

Lynn Mattice, Former VP & CSO, Boston Scientific; Chairman, Executive Board of Advisors, Security Executive Council: Small- and medium-sized businesses typically find they rarely are impacted by vandalism these days. About the only form of vandalism that they face usually involves graffiti.

Graffiti is not something that is confined to the inner city of urban areas anymore. It is something that has become more and more commonplace in suburban and rural areas across the country.

Graffiti in itself is a nuisance which causes unplanned for expenditures of time, money or both to clean up or paint over. Graffiti is usually something that is an aggravation, but isn't something that typically gets reported to the police.

With the dramatic increase in gang activity throughout all areas of the country, graffiti is something that should be reported to the authorities. Gangs use graffiti to mark their boundaries and to send messages to rival gangs.
Police need to document these messages to help counter gang activity in your area.

Next Month's Question: What can I do to help ensure I'm choosing the right security solutions from the wealth of available options, and what should manufacturers be doing to show their distinctive competencies?

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