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Interactive security technology:
What is it?

by Stephen Whitten on March 11, 2010

I developed the idea of  “interactive security technology” in the mid 1980s to help convenience store owners who were struggling under the burden of robberies by armed individuals who cared little about killing a clerk for takes that averaged $80. Unless they posted human security guards around the clock — a costly, unwieldy and often unreliable method — armed robbers plundered their businesses and made it difficult at best to attract and retain quality employees. Neither CCTV cameras nor alarms seemed to deter these people.

They needed a solution that combined the clear threat of an immediate response that only a human guard can deliver with the efficiencies offered by surveillance technology. In addition to preventing crime, we needed to get store employees and customers out of harms way instantaneously.

The system we devised (cutting edge for the time, primitive by today?s standards) involved setting up setting up two-way audio and video platforms between more than 1,000 stores and our command center. We reduced armed robberies by more than 80% improved bottom-line results despite the costly implementation of pre-Internet dedicated communications lines.

This is what happened whenever a potential criminal entered a store and identified himself:

  • The clerks triggered an alert to central command, staffed always by off-duty or former law enforcement officers (known as intervention specialists), and then did their best to become invisible.
  • A remote security officer, who could see the action in the store, spoke directly to the subject, letting him know that we were monitoring his movements and foiling his crime. The want-to-be armed robber fled the scene immediately without further incident in the vast majority of cases.
  • In a small number of incidents, the subject — usually intoxicated — did not leave the scene immediately. When this occurred the intervention specialists actively engaged the subject, explaining the situation and communicating the risk to him. We thwarted those individuals, either because they fled after additional communication with the central monitoring facility or because police arrived while we kept the subject preoccupied.

The sustained reductions of armed robberies we achieved averaged 84% in stores that all were in high-incident locations throughout the United States.

Today, interactive security refers primarily to how surveillance and alarm technologies communicate with each other, or interface within a sophisticated network. However, to prevent crime (rather than record it or announce its occurrence) the only interaction that matters is that between the guard (human or technological) and the potential criminal.

To deliver value, interactive security technology must get directly involved with, confuse and intimidate people with bad intent before they can commit crimes. Otherwise, no matter how sophisticated the system, we are closing the barn door after the horse is out.

Stephen Whitten, founder and CTO of Communicated Enforcement, LLC, has been a law enforcement officer, security manager and systems strategist for more than 30 years.

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