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Wren and Tippy

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Monday, July 14, 2008
It's pretty hard for me to read this very nice piece about Wren Solutions without giggling a little. First off, Wren is run by a guy named "Tippy"? Like Wren and Tippy? Like Ren and Stimpy? How did I not know that? I've only met Andrew Wren, whom I'm guessing is Tippy's son. This is Tippy: This is Ren and Stimpy: Hmmm. I'm going to say there's a bit of a resemblance there. (Sorry, Tippy.) Is there a security-related inspiration for one of the most twisted cartoons ever produced? I think more investigation may be needed. And you've got to love the caption they provide for Tippy: Cliff “Tippy” Wren is the founder of Wren Solutions, located in St. Martins. He started working for his father in his pre-teen years and is celebrating 25 years at Wren Solutions. Am I the only one that thinks that sounds like Tippy is only 40 or so? Is so, he hasn't aged all that well...

McGraw leave GE for ADT

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Friday, July 11, 2008
Tony McGraw is ADT's new regional vice president for the western United States. He'll be based in Aurora, Colo. and be responsible for ADT operations in 23 states. He reports to ADT president John Koch. Here's the press release. McGraw was with GE for 24 years before coming to ADT. Most recently, he was GE Security's general manager of global service operations in the Homeland Protection Division. Before that, he held various management positions within GE Healthcare.

It's meta-surveillance video

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Friday, July 11, 2008
You post-structuralists out there will appreciate this story: Jacksonville police have video of someone stealing surveillance video. I know. Wha? The story is about as badly organized and constructed as possible, but the first paragraph gets the gist of it: One day after three men robbed a young mother at gunpoint, inside her home - someone stole the surveillance video from detectives. That theft was caught on camera. I mean, that's a really crappy couple of sentences (is there a reason for the hyphen?), but the point is that one crime (the robbery of the young mother) was caught on home surveillance footage. And then that footage, which was in the possession of the police, was stolen. And they got that crime on video, too. And, seriously, I've got to go through the whole rest of this article because it's just too crazy in so many ways: Doctor Royce McGowan refuses to watch Wednesday's surveillance video of the invasion into his Arlington home. His wife, mother-in-law and baby were inside the home when the men kicked in the front door. "I just listened to it once. I can't listen to it again. It enrages me," said McGowan. Yes, really, that's the next paragraph in the story. Yes, you can figure out why we're talking about McGowan (I like how they spell out "Doctor" - that's totally AP style), but it's not actually clear from the preceding paragraph which seems to talk about a young mother. And in the first paragraph, why was only the young mother relevant? Usually, if there's a baby involved, that baby's in the lede (that's a journalism term there - you're supposed to spell it wrong). And why are we talking about "listening" to surveillance footage? Shouldn't we be watching it? Did McGowan refuse to watch the video and only listen, and only do that once before turning over the footage to the coppers? I'm confused. He gave the video to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. He hopes the clear pictures of the men will help detectives find them. Why are we in the present tense for the second paragraph here, especially considering this next sentence? However his home surveillance video was stolen from police. The theft was caught on his office surveillance camera Thursday. "Crime is everywhere - you can't escape it," said McGowan. This doesn't really seem like a potential problem. How could the video be stolen? There was only one copy of the footage and that was given to the police? What was it a VHS tape or something that they didn't make a copy of? This doesn't seem remotely possible. And I'd like the "his office" to be a little clearer. Why are the cops interviewing the couple at McGowan's office if the incident happened in their home? I'm still confused. While a JSO detective was interviewing the couple inside the office, the surveillance cameras caught a man pulling up next to the detectives car in the parking lot. It would kill people to use apostrophes correctly. How do we show possession? Maybe by writing "detective's"? After scoping out the car for more than 10 minutes, the man broke out the car's back window and stole the laptop. Inside that laptop was a DVD of the surveillance video from Wednesday's home invasion. "Without that... we wouldn't have any recollection on who did it," said McGowan. Okay, I love that a guy was able to smash the window of a cop car, steal a laptop, and get away without anyone doing anything about it. That's awesome. But, seriously, why is a reporter acting like it's news that a DVD of surveillance video was stolen? Is it possible that's the only copy of the footage, like there's a security camera out there that just spits out DVDs and if you lose that DVD, well, you're SOL (that's also a very important journalistic term, but I'm not going to spell it out for you)? Isn't it more newsworthy that a cop's laptop was stolen? That seems like a bigger deal to me. McGowan had just moved into the Brentwood Avenue office two months ago. The cameras have been in place for fewer than three weeks. This doesn't seem relevant to me, but those are, indeed, two declarative sentences. His security company, Homeland Security Group, was able to replace the DVD. The laptop and the thief are still missing. Huh. So that first paragraph, where it was newsworthy that the surveillance video was stolen, was kind of disingenuous, wasn't it? Because you, the reporter, already know that footage was easily replaceable and therefore this isn't news. And what about the surveillance footage of the laptop theft? Did we get a license plate number? Is the face visible? No idea. At least they named the security company. That's a rarity. JSO says there is no sensitive information on the laptop. This might be my favorite part. A cop's laptop has "no sensitive information" on it? How are we defining "sensitive" here? What does he use the laptop for? Playing Minesweeper when he's bored by the side of the highway? So, a cop's laptop is stolen from the back of his car and we're worried about the DVD inside of it? Super. McGowan plans to add cameras to their home and business. Why? You caught both recent crimes on video. Is this just a last sentence because it seemed like there had to be a last sentence somewhere? Well done, award-winning news anchor Victor Blackwell (or, more likely, Victor's intern). Well done.

Home blaze brings eagle home

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Thursday, July 10, 2008
A fire that broke out in a Glen Burnie, Maryland home led fire investigators to a trove of stolen guns, scrap metal, copper tubing, and a $20,000 Jim Dolan stainless steel eagle sculpture, which had been filched from an office park in Elkridge, Md. on July 1. The eagle, which has a 10-foot wing span, is in police custody, but will be returned to its rightful owners in the near future.

People are even dumber than you thought

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Thursday, July 10, 2008
In the course of my google searching for security stories, this one keeps popping up. It's been in four or five publications. I'm convinced at this point that it's real. Check it out. The headline got me to click: Mix-up uncovers error in home security setup. (I would have gone with set-up hyphenated, but whatever.) So, okay, maybe this is something people need to worry about, this error, I'm thinking. So I read further. Here's the error: A Jennings resident recently gave her security company an incorrect address. When her alarm accidentally went off, police did not show up. Yeah, it can be a problem when you don't know where you live. Luckily, the cops are around to give people sound advice: "We are telling people to make sure they've given the right address ... Whenever you install a security system, make sure that everything is in order. This is something the homeowners should verify for themselves." Yes, definitely verify you've given your alarm company that actual address where you live. Like, don't say you live in St. Louis if you actually live in Jennings, because that would be a bad idea. Good thing we have crack reporters working at local newspapers to bring these vital issues to light. The rash of people giving their alarm companies addresses other than the ones at which they live has been averted, I'm certain.

Fireworks and false alarms

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Hard to believe the 4th of July has come and gone. I took a nice little trip to Ohio to visit the grandparents and ended up driving 16 hours straight back to the East Coast by myself. I was certainly cracked out on caffeine and loud music by the time I rolled in around 2AM. Certainly not a traveling strategy I would recommend. But, it's always nice to have a little time off work, which, by the massive amount of "out of office" replies I've received lately, I'm guessing many of you continue to enjoy. That's summer for you. I hope you got to enjoy 4th celebrations. I didn't get to see any fireworks this year, which I was sadly disappointed about. And, based on this news report out of Denver, others missed out on the show too. This guy had obviously spent a lot of money to buy his own holiday entertainment (or perhaps supplement his income since his entire garage was chock-a-block full of illegal fireworks). His burglar alarm went off, police showed up, discovered his stash and arrested him and ruined more than his weekend. Of course, no one was trying to steal his stash, just another case of a false alarm leading police to other violations. I sure bet he wished Denver had a stricter verification policy. Funny they don't include any statistics about how many unrelated arrests are made on the coattails of false alarm responses. I think someone oughta keep track.

Are the spiders getting to you?

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

That was the single worst photo of a spider I could find. They're apparently "camel spiders" (not sure if this information is urban legend or not) and they terrorize soldiers in Iraq. Apparently they like to hide out in sleeping rolls. Gives me the crawlies. Anyway, such spider interest is triggered by the following press release that came in today. For some reason, this product seems oddly very attractive. Perhaps you want to buy a "tin." QED, UK distributors of security equipment and accessories have developed a new spider deterrent in the form of an aerosol spray. The product, called Spiderex has been launched under their new Midas brand.  It is a specially formulated clear spray which when applied to any area will deter spiders for up to 8 months.  This is a revolutionary new product that has been developed specifically for the security industry. It's "revolutionary," mind you. Spiders like creating their webs in warm places, which, unfortunately for security installers, includes around CCTV camera housings and PIR detectors. This, in effect, causes false alarms with PIR detectors or build up of material in front of a CCTV camera. In any case, maintenance is required to resolve these issues. Too much time has been spent by installers getting rid of spiders and the issues they cause for security systems. QED’s Marketing Manager Matt Byrom commented: “Spiderex is a simple product yet having a can will provide a massive impact on the time spent on maintenance and profits of a security installer.”  He continued “In fact, even if Spiderex was to stop one service call it would have paid for itself many times over.” A "massive" impact. QED believes this will solve one of the biggest causes of false alarms in CCTV systems and also stop the build-up of spider related material such as webs in CCVTV cameras and housings. Spiderex is on Special Offer now at £5 OFF per tin + FREE Delivery and available from www.spiderex.co.uk. Please, please, please leave some comments (click on the word "comment" below - it's easy) on whether spiders are actually a big problem for you on the installation end. I'm desperate for some good spider stories. Seriously. I hate spiders. And my wife always makes me kill them. You should have seen the size of the dock spider I killed in the living room of our lake house last week. I hit it with my shoe, but kind of whacked it instead of leaving the shoe on the carpet and the spider bounced about three feet into the air and scared the crap out of me. But then it was pretty dead.

Hiring illegal aliens=bad idea

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Monday, July 7, 2008
Okay, I'm back to blogging. I've spent the last week lounging by the side of a lake in Maine where there is no cell coverage nor Internet access and it was luxuriously relaxing. Also, we ran through five liters of Jameson, so other portions of the vacation are hazy. While I sort through 500+ emails, here's an update on Mace's car washes that just won't go away: Horsham-based car wash company Car Care Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Mace Security International, pleaded guilty June 24 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Oh, just one count. That's not that bad, really. From 2000 to 2006, Car Care managers at car washes in Norristown, Flourtown, Bryn Mawr and Cherry Hill, N.J., hired illegal workers by giving them false names and a way to cash their checks at local banks without identification, a press release said. "We're not talking about a few illegal workers who slipped through the cracks," U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan said in the press release. "To the contrary, dozens of illegal workers made up the majority of Car Care's workforce at these locations. This is harboring illegal aliens in its simplest form." According to the indictment, on a given day, illegal immigrants made up approximately 90 percent of the workforce at the locations. Hmmm, actually, that seems really bad. Seriously? Ninety percent? Each manager who pleaded guilty faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years' supervised release. Yikes. That's really bad. That career in car-washing is headed right down the tubes. Luckily for the security side of things, Mace ain't the military: Aside from one of the regional managers, no higher management was charged, Car Care defense attorney Eric Sitarchuk said. Not a whole lot of site visits going on, I guess. I know it doesn't have anything to do with security, but I'm fascinated by these car washes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey actively working to defraud the U.S. government. 1. Couldn't you just find some high school kids to work cheap? 2. Couldn't you just pay them in cash, so you didn't have to go through the whole fake-name check-cashing scheme? 3. Aren't car washes pretty cash-positive as a rule? Did you really need to hire 90 percent illegal aliens to turn a profit?

This all just seems so stupid. If Mace can't sell these car washes off soon enough, can they just make like a baseball team and designate the car washes for assignment? Put them on the disabled list? Offer them an outright release?

Everything you always wanted to know about ESX

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Monday, June 30, 2008
A couple days late, here are some highlights from the new home-grown industry show called ESX, the Electronic Security Exposition, which took place in Nashville, June 24-28. Congratulations to the CSAA, NBFAA, EH (the group that organized the event) and the TBFAA on this inaugural event. First up on June 24 was the skeet shoot, sponsored by the Tennessee Burglar & Fire Alarm Association at the Nashville Gun Club Now, I’d never held a gun, let alone shot one, but guess what I found out? Shooting semi-automatic weapons at little pieces of clay is fun. It helped that I had lots of spirited encouragement from the our two guides--Foxy and Paulette—and from those in my group—Bob and David Michel from Valley Alarm in California and Gene from, can't find his card, but it's a security company in South Carolina. (Gene not only hit a bunch of skeets, he took out a live bird during the excursion.) Thanks also to Dom D’Ascoli of Smoky Mountain Security in NC for lending me one of those fancy shooting vests with the padded shoulder, it was only after I donned that vest that I actually hit one of those little orange saucers. And my shoulder's probably a little less bruised as a result of the padding. After the skeet shoot, we had about 10 minutes to get cleaned up and walk down to the Country Music Hall of Fame for the NBFAA scholarship awards, and the Sara Jackson and Morris Weinstock awards. Fortunately for us, the winner of the Sara Jackson award, Frank Burke, was with the skeet shooting crowd, so the event didn't start until he arrived. Here’s Leischen's write up on that very nice event. ESX organizers made some great choices of venue throughout this event, including the reception that followed the awards. it took place in the rotunda. Great party locale and I'm glad they opted for the reception where you can talk to many, rather than a sit-down dinner. Ready for Day 2? Not yet, most found their way to nearby Broadway for some BBQ, beer and blue grass for at least a couple more hours. Day 2 was full of educational sessions, which according to everyone I spoke to were well programmed and well attended. Here's Sam's story about sessions he attended and mine on a home automation session I attended. This day was also jam packed with NBFAA and CSAA meetings. I went to the crack of dawn government relations meeting to hear what was going on in Washington. The evening found everyone back on Broadway. My group wound up at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, where Cher was sitting up front in a booth near the band. What'd she look like in person? She was very thin and had very smooth skin. We're well into Day 3 by the time the editors arrive back at the Rennaissance Hotel and a few short hours later we were heading to the show floor wondering what it would look like. It was not jam-packed by any stretch, but there was a respectable crowd and exhibitors I talked to reported "quality conversations." There were more well-attended educational sessions and Sam's Rising Stars luncheon was a great success. (Always nice to see diversity in the crowd. Here's to you over-40s!) Evening # 3 is the Big Bash. Again, ESX does it right: a little food, a little drink, a little Marty Stuart. Then it's time to load up on BBQ to prepare for the Club Crawl. Organized again by the TBFAA, we went toured some clubs that we were now pretty well acquainted with and ended up at the Cadillac Ranch where a veritable who's who of the security industry rode a mechanical bull. I don't ride bulls, but a publisher I know rode said bull for well over a minute. Just wish I had a picture to prove it. Day 4 and the show floor was very quiet. Exhibitors would have liked more traffic, but isn't the show floor always quiet on the last day of any show? At lunchtime, Sam packs 'em in again for his "Next Generation" luncheon. A lot of people left Friday afternoon, but not Leischen and I. We went to the Grand Ole Opry and then, just for good measure decided to head back to Broadway for more blue grass, beer and BBQ. This is Robert's Western World where we hung out. Check Sam's ESX blog entries for an insider’s opinion of the music. I had never listened to this much country music before and came away wondering why country musicians are always singing about trains. We heard this one at least twice a night, but there are many, many songs about trains. One young musician I spoke to at Robert’s on Broadway said he’d never thought about it before, but he estimated that a good 10 percent of the songs he sang were about trains and another five percent mentioned trains. Asked if he’d consider singing about other modes of transportation, he said no. “I’m not going to sing about no hybrids.” So the editors of Security Systems News are in denial about this show being moved to Baltimore. Nothing against Baltimore, but it's going to have a lot to live up to next year.

ESX on target

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Monday, June 30, 2008
So, I'm back from the ESX show in Nashville, and I must say, I had a blast. To start off the show they let me play with guns (for security guys, they really have no sense), but I felt surprisingly confident firing live ammunition at small flying discs during the TBFAA's skeet shooting event. A shout out to Andrew Stadler of Security Partners for his fine videography skills. video During the first two days of the show I attended several great educational sessions, my favorite being the Gen-Y session. Maybe I was just particularly engaged because I'm just on the cusp of being a Gen-Y-er myself (missed it by a year), but I thought it was interesting to hear how the security industry, specifically central stations, are dealing with us youngin's. Sophie Gravel, the director at Monitoring Station for Reliance Protectron did a great job presenting this topic. She was informative and engaging, and not presumptuous or assuming. The message I took away was about the importance of keeping Gen-Y engaged, continuing to offer education options, allowing flexible work schedules, that kind of thing. Very reasonable, I thought, and something all companies should be offering their employees, but that must be my youth coming through. One question I thought was interesting was: "What if you just don't like these kids?" Hmm...that could pose a problem. The premise of the question was why should management have to coddle and pay more attention to these newbies who will likely only stay for a year or two than the 15-year veterans who do their jobs without question? Gravel's answer: Because we have no choice. This is the next generation of workers. "This generation is just starting to impact the workforce in profound ways, changes need to happen in our culture and management style," she said. "This generation doesn’t expect, accept or understand the same rules as their predecessors ...They're looking for relationships with coworkers, looking for a fun environment. They like structure but don’t like to be in a box." I also got to sit down with Pam Petrow, the new COO of Vector Security. I really enjoyed our conversation and I think it was one of the most enjoyable and engaging interviews I've had in a long time. Plus, I really appreciate talking to high up women execs. They inspire me and Pam is at the top of my list. There was lots other industry things happening at ESX (obviously I was bad about blogging at the actual event), but on another fun note, I had a chance to go to the Grand Ole Opry and see Trace Adkins (he's a big country star, for those of you who don't know). He's also one of the biggest guys I've seen in a long time. I had a great time in Nashville and am a little disappointed the show is going to Baltimore next year. I bet they won't let you shoot guns in Baltimore and if you do hear gun fire, chances are you need to take cover.

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