Stamford Marriott: Security includes promoting awareness
Stamford Marriott: Security includes promoting awareness

Sep 1, 1998 12:00 PM

Not more than a handful of years ago, Stamford, Conn., was a sleepy little New England town where the biggest security problem was controlling teenage hot-rodders on a Saturday night. But Stamford is slowly becoming a bustling metropolis with a booming economy and big-city problems. Home to several major corporations such as IBM, Xerox and Champion International, Stamford also sports an array of big-time hotels, one of which is the Stamford Marriott. Situated squarely in the heart of town, the Stamford Marriott has 506 rooms and caters mostly to traveling business people. Security for the hotel proper, including a four-tier parking garage, is the responsibility of Alan Barker, director of loss prevention. Barker recently joined the hotel after leaving a major New York City hotel where he served as assistant director of security. Prior to that post, he served in the military.

Sophisticated systems Barker is responsible for the safety and protection of employees, guests and physical assets of the Marriott. He also co-chairs the hotel's committee on safety awareness, which deals with OSHA requirements and standards. Guest room doors are on a VingCard system that can provide a paper trail of up to 125 transactions to determine who entered and when. "The VingCard system eliminates hard keys, and when a guest leaves, their card can be programmed out," explains Barker. A mixture of Vicon, Sony and Panasonic CCTV cameras, enclosed in Pelco housings, are located strategically throughout the hotel and in the four-tier parking garage. The Vicon cameras are equipped with Computar and Pentax Cosmicar lenses in various focal lengths. The control room is home to a Burle black-and-white and a Sony color monitor, both of which run off of two Multivision Plus multiplexers by Robot Research, a division of Sensormatic. The monitors continuously view 16 locations each, and when necessary, a location can be called up full-screen. Two Sony 24-hour time-lapse recorders are also housed in the room, as well as a Simplex fire command center. "We eventually plan to re-situate the security control center in a location closer to the employee entrance," says Barker. A Morse Watchman system is used in the parking garage for station reporting by officers who must place the Morse unit against each station. After each tour, officers bring the Morse unit back to the security department where the information is downloaded into an IBM PC. Motion detectors are used in all emergency stairwells, which are restricted to employees. "We don't want them leaving the building without going through a checkpoint," explains Barker. "Since stairwell doors cannot be locked, the motion detectors give us an extra measure of control," he says. All stairwell doors are alarmed using Continental Mark V door contacts and are assigned a number. If security is breached at any of these doors, an audio signal sounds instantly in the security control room, and the number of the breached door flashes at the console. The number is then entered into the multiplexer, a picture of that area appears on the call-up monitor, and a security officer is dispatched to the scene. Using a Motorola GP300 radio, the officer communicates his findings back to the control room. The human factor Employees must enter and exit the hotel through the employee entrance. When leaving they are asked to open for inspection any parcels being carried. "We also discourage employees from bringing in bulky bags or boxes when reporting for work. If they do, the items must be checked in at the security office," adds Barker. The security operation also maintains a "red sticker" policy for any hotel property being carried out of the building by an employee. For example, if a guest leaves an unwanted item behind and an employee would like to take it home, the employee's manager must authorize the item's removal and provide a red sticker for it. An important aspect of the program is that only certain managers have red-sticker authority. "These managers have their signatures on file in the security department, which prevents forgery attempts," says Barker. To combat employee theft, the security department also performs periodic locker checks. When necessary, Barker and his staff will set up covert operations to catch a thief. The guard force consists of 10 proprietary officers. Each wears a blue blazer, white shirt, red-and-blue striped tie and gray slacks. They are unobtrusive and blend in with the hotel's business clientele. Each officer must go through the security department's training program, which consists of first aid, CPR, handling of guest conflicts, incident reporting, how to spot thieves, how to communicate with the public, how to conduct investigations, and how to investigate alleged room loss reports. House officers are trained for two weeks, spending time with one seasoned officer, as well as the security supervisor. During this time, they are also exposed to the department's different shifts, so they will know what to expect if they are required to fill in for someone. Barker holds a monthly meeting for the entire security staff and goes over security procedures, new training procedures, and issues that arose during the previous month. Officers are encouraged to share their problems and concerns. The security department not only trains its own staff, but also provides training on fire safety and security issues for hotel employees.

Sidebar The laptop caper A recent incident at the Stamford Marriott involved the theft of a laptop computer from one of the hotel's board rooms on the Mezzanine level. When the incident was reported, Donna Comunale, supervisor of loss prevention, immediately viewed the tapes from that area and spotted the perpetrator carrying what appeared to be a laptop computer. "He looked suspicious, so I followed him on camera through several areas, and saw him exit the hotel with his booty," says Comunale. Comunale then summoned the Stamford Police and gave them a copy of the videotape, along with the serial number of the laptop. The police immediately scanned the records of pawn shops in the area. Because of a law on the books in Connecticut that requires a person to show identification when hocking an item, and because pawn shops must input serial numbers of purchased items into a database that the police have access to, the perpetrator was apprehended.

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