Slow Police Response Alarms Owners of Underground Art

by Lindsey Lowry/MicroMemphis reporter

On June 7, 2011, at 1:30 am, Star Adams heard a loud and abrupt noise outside, instantly followed by the security alarm ringing. The alarm came from Underground Art, the neighboring building.  She looked out her window and saw shadows scurry away. Adams did not call the police; she assumed the alarm would notify the police to respond immediately.

“Luckily they didn’t get in. But it took 30 minutes for the police to arrive. That’s ample time for the burglars to get what they want,” said Adams.

Underground Art owner, Angela Russell, awoke to a dispatcher informing her that two people tried to break down the door, sounding the alarm. She hastily arrived on the scene to meet the police.  “The police asked me if there was anything they wanted to steal inside and I said 'no. I don’t know why anyone would try to break in,'” said Russell.

“Twenty minutes after my husband and I arrived the police were lagging around. They didn’t dust for fingerprints. They didn’t get in their cars to go look for them. I couldn’t understand why it took so long for the police to get there…and why they didn’t search for who did this.”

In a June 7 entry on the Underground Art Facebook page, Russell laments, "Last night [two] folks tried to break into our sweet little shop, ruining the door and our peace of mind... As for thieves, we are happy that nothing more was taken or damaged, while trying to remember that you never know what motivates people...searching for forgiveness and all that...through our seething anger."

Russell has been in Memphis for 18 years without an unfortunate event like this occurring, "So I guess we've been pretty lucky..." she said in a discussion on the business' Facebook page. 

According to Russell, a representative from her business' security company, Security Consultants, informed her that security alarms are not a priority due to frequent false alarms.

Russ Lauria, the owner of Security Consultants, explained how the alarm system notifies police. After the alarm is triggered, notification through phone wires is sent to a monitoring station. The monitoring station then notifies the key holder. The key holder then decides if the police need to be alerted. 

Lauria said, “The alarm going through the phone lines could take several minutes, causing a delay. Police dispatchers take the call and send it out to a car if one is even available.”

He said the dispatchers “prioritize calls. An alarm is considered a lower priority than a domestic disturbance or a homicide. I’ve been a police officer for 28 years and a detective for some time. So I know what I’m taking about.”

When asked if 30 minutes was an appropriate response time, Lauria said, “Thirty minutes isn’t surprising at all to me. It takes at the very least 11 minutes from start to finish.”

Lieutenant Chorcie Jones, a supervisor at the Union Station (Cooper Young’s precinct),  confirmed Lauria’s assessment that an alarm system is a lower priority “than an aggressive assault or a shooting, which are higher priority that need immediate attention. So the response time to a security alarm really depends on what else is going on at that time.” He said the response time could be as soon as five minutes in the absence of “higher priorities.”

Jones explained that a panic alarm or a call from a neighbor spotting the whereabouts of the suspects would have heightened the priority. He also added that since the suspects used a tool to break into the door and immediately fled the scene, the officers assessed that it was not possible to dust for fingerprints. He added that at least six of the sixty officers on duty every night are trained to dust for fingerprints.

In the meantime a new security door guards Underground Art, restoring “peace of mind” to Russell, her employees, and her clients. 
                                                                                                                                                                  ( University of Memphis July 2011 )



Arbitrage Magazine article on residential breakins and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim ( Dec 2011 )



Ontario Municipal Insurance Exchange (OMEX)

Vulnerable Sector Screening;

"Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."

            Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa

 Municipal employees and/or volunteers may have contact with vulnerable members of society through day camps, children/youth programs, long term care facilities and special events involving children and seniors.

 It is recommended that you request a vulnerable sector screening report from anyone who is applying to work with members of the community or programs who meet the definition of a vulnerable member of society.  This includes current employees who may be transferring to a new position.

 Vulnerable members of society are defined in the Criminal Records Act as persons who, because of age, a disability, or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent are:

 in a position of dependence on others or

  1. are otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person in a position of authority or trust relative to them.

 A vulnerable sector check (also, known as a vulnerable sector verification) is used to determine the possible existence of a criminal record and/or a sexual offence conviction for which an individual has received a pardon.

 It is also recommended that you have a Vulnerable Sector Check completed once each calendar year.  You may opt for a two year cycle.  Whatever you chose to do, it’s important that you complete the task and can provide documentation that proves that you did the check as often as you said you would.  This is an important recommendation as someone may have a clear check in 2011 but have a charge in 2015 that results in a claim in 2018. 

 There have been some changes to the system.  Each police department has their own system and their own fees.  Specifics would have to be discussed with your local police force.  If your workforce is unionized, you will need to work within the collective agreement with this requirement.

 “It is important to remember that although Vulnerable Sector Screening is an important necessary step, it does not identify all of the risk factors that may be present pertaining to an individual that you are about to hire. Proper personal and professional work references and an interview process with specially designed human behavior questions can be of great assistance to help you find the most suitable candidate for the job.”

-Russ Lauria, 27 year Police Officer and President of ITC Security Consultants*                                                                

 It is important that you treat a Vulnerable Sector Screening Check are one piece in the large puzzle that is overall screening to ensure that you have the right people performing the right duties.  Asking the right questions is critical in determining a candidate’s eligibility for a position.  ITC Security Consultants can assist you and your Human Resources department in creating appropriate questions and with the interview process itself.  This is key as it is critical that you work with your Human Resource Department to create a process that works for both the hiring process and Risk Management.  If you have a Volunteer Program in place, you may wish to review that program to determine if Vulnerable Sector Screening Checks would be appropriate.

If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Shannon Devane, Director of Risk, Ontario Municipal Insurance Exchange at 905 480 0060 ext 235 or by e-mail

For more information on ITC Security Consultants, please go to or contact Shannon Devane. (OMEX Nov 2011)



Stores Magazine


June 2011 - What We've Learned





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SINCE 9/11 every aspect of our lives has changed. Planes, trains, where we go and how we shop. And as it has become more difficult for terror cult Al Qaeda and its twisted sympathizers to hit hard targets, they are turning their eyes to the soft--such as malls. According to Malls and many retailers have dramatically altered their security operations over the last 10 years. The addition of personnel and technology, combined with strong collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement, has placed a greater emphasis on prevention. And whether it’s the threat of a bomber or a gunman, strong training across all levels goes a long way toward maintaining high levels of safety at stores and malls.
Security expert Russ Lauria, president of ITC Security Consultants has more than 28 years of experience
in law enforcement. He says post-9/11 changes have filtered down from federal agencies to state and local law enforcement and into retail itself. Whether it’s identifying and assessing the threat potential of a suspicious individual, package or vehicle, nearly all scenarios now have systematic responses.     (from Crime Scene USA Sept 2011)



The 9/11 Decade : Business No Longer As Usual As Security Becomes Central To Companies


The attacks of 10 years ago have fundamentally changed the ways that U.S. companies function, with security at the center of business operations from Wall Street to the Mall of America.

Less than 24 hours after the towers came down, companies were already rolling up their sleeves. The attacks of 9/11 meant the entire management process needed to be checked : from communication, employee safety and the protection of business travelers to identity checks for new recruits, risk assessment, emergency evacuation plans and team crisis management training. Ten years later, where are we on these fronts ? Have the Sep. 11 attacks substantially changed the way America works ?

In the wake of the tragedy, a flood of federal plans and anti-terrorist laws forced some sectors, like the air sector, to evolve. Since 2001, the chemical industry alone has spent $10 billion on security. As for the 104 nuclear power plants, $2.1 billion were invested in equipment and human resources, with 8,000 armed men - thirty percent more than 10 years ago – providing round-the-clock security controls.Not surprisingly, jobs in the security sector have been booming.

Russ Lauria, CEO of ITC Security says the time has passed when security agents were sitting behind a desk. “They are trained to spot any suspicious behavior or parcel, parked cars, people taking pictures of the building,” he says. From biometry to economic intelligence, security has been professionalized. “Companies used to do everything themselves. Now, they need all risks, from fires to cyber-terrorism, to be covered by an audit.”

Companies also realized business travel was no longer considered safe. Geographic mobility rules have been revised to add new measures, such as the training of traveling representatives.

Reaching middle America

A thousand miles from Manhattan, near Minneapolis, 40 million people each year cram through the doors of the huge Mall of America. But behind the scene are 150 security agents, including agents dressed in plain clothes and dogs specially trained to sniff out bombs. “We are also doing random checks on our 11,000 employees’ cars,” says mall spokesman Dan Jasper. “Parking lots are closed at night, and the staff’s locker rooms are monitored.”Following this example, many employers regularly check their current and former employees’ résumés. “We need a refresher course every two years to check if the perfect employee has not turned into a criminal,” Russ Lauria says. Louis Caprioli, consultant for the Geos Group, says full security background checks are a must : “even if it means we have to ask the FBI.”

The company’s boundaries are not as clear as they used to be, and many of their activities are now being coordinated with public institutions, including the training of their employees by federal agencies. Major corporations like General Motors or Coca-Cola hire former policemen, counter-intelligence experts and firemen. As a consequence, the role of the security manager has now been expended to cover a full range of missions, from prevention to protection to crisis management.
 (Les Echos Newspaper Paris, France Sept 2011)


System 'can shoot fleas off a dog'
Dek Head: High-definition cameras keep sharp eye on Atlantic Station.
What some see as safety, others see as invasion.

Story: Four 42-inch, high-definition monitors are mounted on a wall in the public safety office at Atlantic Station. Shoppers can see them through the glass doors. The monitors show people walking through the shopping center, sitting on benches, eating outside. Feeds are taken from nine high-tech cameras that can spin 360 degrees, watching from rooftop to ground.

While video surveillance in a retail setting isn't new, at Atlantic Station it's no longer secretive. In fact, with the advent of digital technology, shopping destinations such as this one want people to know exactly what it has.

And it is high-powered stuff.

"You can zoom in so far that you can see the color of somebody's eyes, " said Santana Gauthier, Atlantic Station administrative officer.

In a world continually on edge and mindful of the potential for disruptive activity in large public settings, metro Atlanta shopping centers have taken advantage of improved technology and upgraded their surveillance systems in an effort to ensure a secure environment for customers and employees.

When the Korean grocery store Mega Mart opened at Gwinnett Place Mall last October, its owner showed off a state-of-the-art security system intended to allay safety fears. The Simon Property Group, which operates the Mall of Georgia, Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, among others, has upgraded its entire communications network and has a former member of the FBI's joint terrorism task force overseeing it.

Atlantic Station's technology enhancement was fueled, in part, by community concerns that the mixed-use shopping center was not safe at night. Gauthier and others look for people who linger too long in one area, for large crowds that may cause trouble, for individuals who have been told not to return to the private shopping center.

Tom Miles, Atlantic Station vice president and general manager, said every mall and shopping center he has worked for has had camera coverage. At this particular mall, he has been surprised by how much the cameras can see. Yet he finds them useful in spotting potential situations before they become major issues, from a traffic jam to a possible fight.

"This camera can shoot 400 yards; it can shoot fleas off a dog, " Miles said. "It's really powerful. It's a little like Big Brother, but I think it's a benefit."

With all of this video surveillance at hand, privacy concerns remain an issue with some shoppers. Matthew Kelley and Maya Collins, walking through Atlantic Station, feared that the surveillance could lead to racial profiling.

ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley, while concurring that minorities are disproportionately targeted through video systems, said the extent to which surveillance can be used invades everyone's freedoms.

"If a security guard were to follow you, you wouldn't like it; you would be creeped out, " Stanley said by phone from Washington. "Technology is moving us to the point where everybody's watching us all the time."

Atlantic Station, in addition to its nine newer ones, has 200 lower-tech cameras on the property. Trained only in common areas, the cameras are there to watch the property, not look for shoplifters or monitor specific stores. Individual retailers are responsible for their own security, though the cameras can be trained on the door of a store if asked.

"Our goal is to make it a safe and secure environment, " said Ben Payne, Atlantic Station public safety director. "We don't want to be invasive."

For the most part, people passing through Atlantic Station on a recent day didn't object to the cameras. Some were comforted by their presence.

"I think it's wise, " said Rusty Paul, a consultant who works in Atlantic Station. "If bad folks know they're being monitored in one area, but not another, they're apt to be in the other area."

In the past, companies were loathe to show their video footage, said Bob Carter, general manager for Iron Sky, the security system used by Atlantic Station and local governments in Norcross and College Park, among others. Its closed-circuit nature made it difficult to share with police or other agencies. Cameras were often poorly placed or captured grainy images.

Video cameras aren't the only area in retail in which technology improvements have been made. The Simon Property Group said it has upgraded its entire communication network to better share information in the event of a disaster, natural or otherwise, and it has security leadership with specialized skills.

Russ Tuttle, vice president of corporate security and emergency management for Simon Property Group, is a former member of the FBI's joint terrorism task force. He said recognizing a threat is key to security, and communication is imperative.

"If you don't understand your risk, you don't understand how vulnerable you are to your risks, " Tuttle said.

High visibility has become key to deterring crime of all sorts, Tuttle said, and cameras in the forefront are a means of sending that message as much as security guards on Segways.

Cameras are still meant to document crime, not necessarily prevent it. More often than not, according to Joseph LaRocca, National Retail Federation senior asset protection adviser, the video is used after illegal activity takes place, and not before.

ITC Security Consultants president Russ Lauria said videotaping might make some people feel safer, but the cameras themselves will not stop crime, a thought echoed by Carter of Iron Sky.

"Video by itself is only going to have a small impact, " Carter said. "It's feet on the street. If you've got great video and no one's using it, it's not going to do much good."

As for making the cameras visible to the public, Payne at Atlantic Station said he encourages shoppers to step in and watch the screens, and his offers have been accepted.

"I think it's been very effective, " Payne said of the new technology. "We're seeing a shift in momentum the way we want it to be. If the typical criminal knows he's on camera, he's going to go somewhere he's not on camera." ( Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sept 2011 )