Defending the prosecutors
Defending the prosecutors

Mar 1, 1999 12:00 PM

In a new glass and steel building, security equipment protects employees of the Kings County DA's office ... and their witnesses.

Employees of the Kings County, New York, District Attorney's office had scant security before moving last summer into the new glass and steel Renaissance Plaza.The move - and a new security system - has made a significant difference in how the DA's office operates, according to Robert N. Kaye, deputy district attorney who oversaw the installation.In the past, employees were terrorized routinely by defendants in domestic violence cases looking to intimidate victims filing charges, he says. "There were no surveillance cameras in that area and only one panic button that went to one investigator; wedidn't even have 24-hour coverage." In addition, the old system had only 10 surveillance cameras routed to one 9-inch monitor and they were not even recorded. Now, a complex structure of cameras, alarms and card readers support round-the-clock efforts of the armed security police and unarmed officers. Witnesses no longer need to fear that defendants will terrorize them, and employees can come and go at any hour.It's no wonder that Kaye is beaming these days. While the DA's office previously was separated into six Brooklyn buildings - only one of which had surveillance cameras - it now occupies 11 floors and 300,000 square feet of the 1.2 million-square-foot, 31-story Renaissance Plaza complex. New procedures have been established for admitting defendants. Incarcerated defendants with appointments do not pass through the main lobby. Defendants who are not incarcerated, however, occasionally show up in the lobby with their victims, who say they want to drop charges. "Guests are screened at the call desk in the lobby. Expected guests, such as witnesses, will have their name in the computer and be given a dated badge for a specific floor. Only people listed in the system are given badges. Otherwise, security officers must get authorization before allowing the guests to enter," Kaye says."Generally, we don't want the uninvited defendant in the building," Kaye says. "We want to talk to the victim to make sure he or she is not unduly influenced."A staff of 18 people combines with sophisticated electronic security systems to reduce intimidation of victimes of domestic violence and other crimes. The systems include 64 surveillance cameras, more than 100 card readers, four "intelligent" elevators, panic buttons, door alarms, four state-of-the-art lobby turnstiles and a Software House system that integrates access control, CCTV and alarms. Kaye used Chapman, Ducibella and Associates, Bethany, Conn., and Honeywell Inc., Elmsford, N.Y., both systems designers and integrators, to oversee the installation.Prosecuting 100,000 annual cases in a borough with 2.5 million inhabitants makes the Brooklyn DA's office inherently vulnerable. A high-profile district attorney - Charles Hynes - adds fuel to the fire. He prosecuted the famous Howard Beach trial involving the racially motivated murder of a black man by a group of white teens. Additionally, Hynes was a candidate in 1998 for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York, and he has long been an outspoken critic of the death penalty."Mr. Hynes' primary concern was for the building's guests and employees, and one of our main concerns was for him," says Kaye, a member of the Kings County DA office since 1970 except for a six-year hiatus. For the most part, he says, the decision to install a comprehensive security system was more a preventive measure than a reactive one.The scope of the security system is evident upon entering the Renaissance Plaza lobby at the Jay Street entrance, shared with New York City's Corporation Counsel.Optical turnstiles by Designed Security Inc. (DSI), Bastrop, Texas, each have two infrared lights placed several feet apart, which are directed at two receivers on the other side of the turnstile, about 3 feet long. If a visitor breaches the first beam, an alarm sounds.With some 5,000 daily transactions, the main challenge was to keep the flow of people as smooth as possible, says Edgar Medina, Honeywell's senior project engineer. Employees flash proximity cards to card readers mounted on turnstiles, which also have an attractive, granite finish on top and a stainless steel bottom.Also in the lobby is x-ray scanning equipment by Heimann Systems, Iselin, N.J., and metal detectors by Metorex Inc., Princeton, N.J.The front door is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. The rest of the time, employees use card readers at the entrance, and guests press a call box button that rings at a security location.The Motorola Indala proximity cards and readers and the C-Cure 800 access control system by Software House, Lexington, Mass., a division of Sensormatic Electronics Corp., are programmed to restrict access to high-security areas, including evidence rooms, a wire room for telephone and surveillance lines, a UL-approved room for ammunition and firearm storage, the security command centers and the district attorney's suite.In some of the high-security areas, individuals must enter codes on a keypad to gain access.Two of six passenger elevators in the Jay Street lobby's elevator bank and two Renaissance Plaza service elevators are equipped with card readers. Some individuals have proximity cards programmed to "recall" the four reader-equipped elevators."We told the system designers that elevator security was an overall concern," Kaye says. "We emphasized that we didn't want anyone to be able to push elevator buttons on weekends without authorization. When an individual calls an elevator with a card, a voice on a speaker instructs elevator passengers in both English and Spanish to leave at the next exit. Once emptied, the elevator will go on to floor where the individual with the card is waiting."There's a similar level of sophistication on the two service elevators," Kaye says. "Even service elevator operators cannot stop at all floors. The elevators have been programmed to stop only at the delivery floor. And even on the delivery floor, a card is needed to gain access to inner offices."The heart of the access control system is the C*Cure 800 software program, which controls card readers in nearly 100 locations, entrances to the office suites on each floor, a garage and secured parking areas. When an access point, such as a door contact, is breached either by force, invalid entry, tampering, or a communications failure, the event triggers a series of occurrences on the C*Cure 800 screen. First, a dynamic icon changes from a normal to a secure state. Informational text instructs the operator and indicates which CCTV monitor to view. The graphical user interface (GUI) allows operators to view an accurate scale detail of the floor in question with maps, floor layouts and color-coded symbols for specific readers."Each floor has ten-bit maps programmed into the C*Cure 800, but each is a system on its own with clean and clear details of what type of alarm is going off," says Medina. "Operators can tell exactly how alarms were activated - whether they were by panic buttons, or door, stairway or elevator breaches.A Moose Security Panel Z2000 by Moose Products, Tualatin, Ore., has been integrated with the C*Cure 800. The panel includes the panic alarm system with audible alarms, smoke and heat detectors, and temperature and humidity sensors. Detectors and sensors supplement a separate life safety system. "We have five separate Moose systems, each with separate alarm panels, which we have integrated into the C*Cure 800," says Honeywell's Chris Malles. "We took all the Moose security system outputs and brought them into the Software House inputs with copper wire." The card readers are connected through reader communication ports by a series of autonomous panel controllers placed throughout the DA's office complex and parking areas. The Moose system outputs are integrated with the C*Cure 800 panels/input modules. A hub with ports for four to five computers is connected to a main file server by a LAN, helping to distribute and route the access control system's signals to the other computer workstations.Sleek consoles hold security equipment such as computers, CCTV monitors, and control panels and serve as workstations. They each have functions such as badging, controlled by the C*Cure 800 system.The badging system comprises a CCTV camera that photographs employees and converts the photos to a digital format that can be distributed throughout the network; a video capture card inside the computer; and the video badging software, which monitors employee access.The matrix for employees allows access to most floors during weekdays but is more restrictive on weekends and evenings. For instance, an employee may have access to only a few floors and the library during off-hours. Criteria for the matrix includes employee position and their assigned bureaus. The DA's office is divided into 20 bureaus for homicide, sex crimes, human resources, crimes against children, domestic violence, rackets, appeals, school advocacy and trial zones. The high-security areas are accessible only to a few employees.A solid and extensive CCTV system is controlled by Robot multiplexers equipped with alarm inputs. Cameras are connected to the multiplexers. The alarm interface is through the RS-232 protocol from the multiplexer to the C*Cure 800 software. An analog interface between the multiplexers panel controller's output modules allows for integration of the CCTV and access control systems.The system is truly automated, emphasizes Ed Medina. While at present, the cameras do not appear on the C*Cure 800 computer screen, an access control alarm point breach at a particular camera point will trigger the alarm input in the multiplexer, causing the camera to be brought up as a full-screen picture on one of the large, 21-inch Panasonic monitors that ordinarily display a 16-picture split screen.At the same time, a Panasonic VCR records the designated scene in a two-hour, real-time mode instead of the time-lapse, 24-hour mode.Each of several console/workstations contains multiplexers, VCRs, and two large 21-inch monitors which function in a split-screen mode, except when a security breach occurs and the full-screen mode is activated. The workstations also contain 14-inch call-up monitors and a portable VCR playback station, consisting of a monitor, multiplexer and VCR for reviewing tapes. In addition, there are several 9-inch monitors dedicated to viewing the four elevators equipped with security systems.Each of the two large monitors contain two video inputs, and the multiplexers bring 16 camera points into each input. One monitor displays pictures alternately from 32 camera points and the other displays pictures from 32 additional camera points. In this way, all 64 camera points are viewed at each workstation. The smaller, call-up monitors are used for review purposes and for isolating particular camera points."In this way, it is possible for one operator to view 64 cameras at a quick pace and scan the building," Medina says.Panasonic color fixed cameras have Kalatel dome housings with smoky dome overlenses. Pan/tilt/ zoom cameras were not used if comparable coverage could be attained by using wide angle lenses and placing the cameras strategically. Most cameras are indoor, and some are placed in a criss-cross fashion to allow a 100 percent view of certain areas, such as the lobby. A control panel allows for magnification and limited vertical movement of the camera picture. Very wide lenses are used with cameras on the exterior of the building and in the parking areas. While most are overt, some are more discretely placed than others, often for aesthetic reasons. For instance, in the district attorney's office suite, visible but domed small, flat, board cameras are mounted in the wall.The office also uses 10,000 square feet of parking on two floors of a three-floor underground parking garage. Each parking area has roll-down and walk-through gates and requires proximity cards.Honeywell took about 10 months to install the security systems. For employees, the result was well worth the wait, Kaye says.

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