Safeguard, Stealth face peril to bring change to Mexico

We've watched a couple videos where these drug lords ... conduct hits as retaliation
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

DALLAS and HERMOSILLO, Mexico—Dallas-based Safeguard Security Holdings, through its new international subsidiary SYSTEMSgroup Global, is engaged in what CEO Michael Lagow says is a “very long, multi-year roll out” of a complex, municipality-wide security solution pilot program that will attempt to bring stability to the Mexican city of Hermosillo. The aim, according to Lagow, is to bring wholesale economic, political, and financial change through properly wielded technology first to a city and then to a country beleaguered by corruption, crime, drug trafficking, and murder.

“It’s been more dangerous than I thought it would be. We’ve watched a couple videos where these drug lords have their own security forces who conduct hits as retaliation against the authorities,” Lagow said. “The first time we got down there we got a note at the hotel telling us we were being followed and that they knew we were working with the government … they knew our whereabouts, what we were doing, where we were staying.”

Lagow said the problem in Mexico has been trying to find the right balance of technology, training and personnel. “When we first met, the authorities weren’t looking at solutions, they were looking at products. And what they needed is what we brought—outside intelligence and monitoring, how to analyze the data and understand what they’re looking at,” he said. “Simply throwing product at it isn’t enough. You have to have the combination of technology and staffing and understanding.”

Safeguard in cooperation with Hermosillo-based telco MegaCable is working to combat the pervasive drug-trade-driven crime and make Hermosillo safe for businesses and residents once more. The concept, according to Lagow, is to design a system that provides the local authorities the ability to integrate various hardware and software solutions from different platforms into one scalable video surveillance solution. The solution will provide authorities the ability to monitor security cameras using facial recognition, license plate recognition, and object detection technologies, in one integrated system driven by what Safeguard and its technology partner Stealth Monitoring call pre-crime analytic technology.

Dallas-based Stealth Monitoring, which last year partnered with and moved in with Safeguard Security, will work with Mexican authorities in Hermosillo to train them in the use and monitoring of the advanced surveillance systems Safeguard is designing and MegaCable is installing. Stealth will also act as a back-up monitoring station to the Hermosillo-based monitoring station, now under construction.

Stealth president Norm Charney said there were challenges involved in Stealth’s first international foray. “There are language issues, and training issues. We’d like to train them up here in our controlled environment,” Charney said. “And we’ll always be the back-up from our control center here.”

The importance of the work being done in Hermosillo cannot be overestimated, according to Lagow. “When we’re completed with this study program then it will become our cookie-cutter process to implement throughout other metropolitan areas … In our first meeting with MegaCable, the chief executive said, ‘If you can make this successful in Hermosillo, I can take you to 36 other cities,” Lagow said, noting the solution will be able to be tweaked to fit an individual municipality’s needs and then leased over time to reduce cost to the municipality. “So we find ourselves in a very dangerous, unique, niche market that we feel—through the use of technology—we can give them eyes and ears and tools to fight problems, reduce the crime and mitigate the risk. But it’s got to start inside Mexico, not just at the borders. Everybody’s so focused on the borders and that’s not it. They’ve got a major problem down there, and if it’s not taken care of, if we don’t start fighting it … the tentacles of what’s going on in Mexico will reach Dallas, Texas, pretty quickly.”