An Urban oasis from crime
An Urban oasis from crime

Aug 1, 1997 12:00 PM

High-tech security protects housing complex in the Bronx. In New York City's 44th precinct in 1996 and the first half of 1997, there were approximately 2,000 burglaries, 1,300 robberies, 120 shooting incidents, close to 1400 assaults and 127 rapes. In 1996 alone, there were 18 murders. It's easy to understand why the city's fourth most active precinct is called Fort Apache.

But during the same timespan, in one of the neighborhood's largest housing complexes - the 291-unit, 14-building Roosevelt Gardens - residents enjoyed a freedom from crime that contrasted sharply with the grim statistics for the neighborhood at large. Within the complex and its perimeter there were no murders, no rapes, only four assaults (two of them domestic), no robberies, one burglary, and no shooting incidents.

In the inner courtyard of the complex, which spans the length of a city block along the Grand Concourse, a wide and once-elegant thoroughfare, elderly residents feel safe relaxing on benches in a landscaped oasis where tall Chinese Elm and Honey Locust trees provide shade from the hot summer sun, and a Dogwood flowers each spring.

The many children living in the government-subsidized complex can also enjoy the courtyard which, like the perimeter, is free of drug dealers, graffiti and vandals. There is even a rock garden designed with washed river stone to look like a dry river bed."You would never see this in a normal urban setting because vandals would toss the rocks at windows. But, because of the security we have here, it doesn't happen," notes Mike Flynn, assistant vice president, maintenance, for the Kraus Organization, which, through its associated companies, developed, manages, and provides security and maintenance services for Roosevelt Gardens Associates.

That security is among the most advanced in the nation for residential dwellings, contends Stephen Kraus, senior vice president of the Kraus Organization and its divisions, such as Kraus Security and Kraus Hi-Tech Security. The residential real estate conglomerate was begun in 1967 by his father, Herman I. Kraus, the organization's president.

High-tech security for residential dwellings, including access control, is definitely a trend for which the Kraus Organization has been a leader. In addition to installing electronic access control systems in several New York City properties they manage, they are currently consultants for the City of Detroit Housing Authority for whom they will design a large-scope video surveillance, access control and alarm system.

At present, Roosevelt Gardens is Kraus' flagship complex. With a $175,000 grant from the Housing and Urban Development Corp. (HUD), Kraus High-Tech Security in April of 1993 set about making Roosevelt Gardens an urban "Shangri-La," in the words of Thomas B. Snyder, assistant president, security, and a 29-year veteran of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

The system includes 25 CCTV cameras that are monitored at an on-site guard booth and remotely at Kraus' Long Island City headquarters 10 miles away; a Javelin Electronics' Quest Plus software program that features integrated alarm, video and audio functions, camera and alarm-point VCRs; passive infrared detectors and door contacts; and an electronic access control system from Access Specialties Inc. With it, some 1,000 residents will receive proximity cards to replace the keys previously used for outside doors and common areas such as laundry and community rooms. A security room and operations areas will also be protected with the access control system.

Since the high-tech security program was implemented, the complex has been able to reduce the number of on-site, 24-hour guards from three to two, and they no longer need to be armed.

Drug dealers who once hung out behind the complex have been driven away by four perimeter cameras, one on each corner. Kraus Maintenance no longer must allocate a disproportionate segment of its time and resources to removing the major works of graffiti that recorded such violent milestones of inner city life as the death or incarceration of drug dealers and gang members.

"Several years ago, HUD put out a Notice of Funds Availability for Drug Elimination Grant Funding," says Stephen Kraus. "The government realized that public and assisted housing needed help fighting inner city drug problems. Roosevelt Gardens Associates contracted with us to apply for the grant. We had to document the need and crime, and after a lengthy, complex process, we were awarded a grant. To keep on the cutting edge, we've recently implemented the electronic access control system. We believe we're one of the first companies to actually apply access control to residential housing as opposed to commercial and industrial applications."

Implementation of the access control system is being accomplished with sensitivity toward residents. Resident input, as well, was a feature of the initial security installation.

"We surveyed residents door to door to see what their security concerns were and combined these with our management concerns when we designed the system," continues Kraus.

>From residents, the Kraus organization learned that, along with safety, a primary concern was that the security cameras and other devices not create an oppressive atmosphere.

"Residents said they didn't want to feel like prisoners in their own homes," says Kraus.

They also expressed concerns about closed-off areas like elevators and common rooms, particularly the laundry room. As a result, security devices such as cameras and card readers were designed to blend with their surroundings. The devices were also placed strategically in locations of concern to residents.

"The laundry room was a concern," says Kraus, "so we put two cameras and now, an access control point in the laundry room. Elevators were another concern, so we put cameras in each of 14 elevators."

In addition, elevators are equipped with "Help" buttons that activate alarms, video images and two-way audio with the on-site security guard. Once the button is pressed, the elevator automatically goes back to the lobby and remains open until it is manually reset by a guard. All of this is recorded by a VCR dedicated solely to the alarm point.

When the decision was made to install the access control system, residents were educated as to the reasons for replacing keys with proximity cards and readers.

Joe Guidice, director of field operation security for Kraus Security and Kraus Hi-Tech Security, and, like Thomas Snyder, a veteran of the NYPD, helped counter some apprehension and misunderstanding. "Some of the tenants felt that the system would make their lives unnecessarily difficult, but I explained that card access gives greater security than keys because people can make duplicate keys and pick locks," says Guidice.

Kraus' sensitivity to residents is reflected in the hiring and training of guards and is an intangible that has helped make the complex's security program so effective. Guards are hired from among the neighborhood, but not from Roosevelt Gardens' residents. They are trained to treat residents in a respectful, helpful manner rather than a heavy-handed one.

As a result, the guards have even earned the respect of neighborhood gang members and have helped keep the complex free of gang-related disputes. "The guards are hired from the neighborhood and make it clear to the teens that they are doing a job and expect that job to be respected," says Guidice.

Adds Snyder: "We hire people who seem to have some ambition, high school graduates who are looking to go somewhere, perhaps with ambitions to advance through the ranks or eventually to join the New York City Police Department." In the meantime, the guards employed by Kraus Hi-Tech Security at Roosevelt Gardens have a host of sophisticated security devices to help them do their jobs.

On a monitor in the guard booth, Javelin Electronics' Quest Plus program provides a color CAD drawing of the complex. The graphical representation includes icons for camera and alarm points.

"Those icons go from green to red when an alarm is activated, so the guard knows which alarm point has been violated," explains Len Casaburri, vice president of Kraus Hi-Tech. "He can also bring down a box that will tell him the 'address' of the violation, and can then either dispatch a guard there or reset the alarm from the computer."

Perimeter, elevator, community-use and laundry room cameras are all integrated with the Javelin program, as are all alarm points, including roof door alarms. "When an outside door alarm is violated, perimeter cameras closest to the point will automatically turn on to that location," explains Casaburri.

The program includes an audit trail of who responded to the alarm, along with the time, location and disposition of the incident. The guard must acknowledge and respond to the alarm, follow the program's instructions, and generate a report," says Ken Weiss, director of sales and marketing for Kraus Hi-Tech.

Roof doors and PIRs are equipped with separate alarm systems. If the Quest Plus graphic screen shows that a door but not the nearby PIR has been violated, the guard knows that the perpetrator did not actually go up on the roof. If both alarm icons turn from green to red on the screen, the perpetrator is likely to be on the complex's roof.

The Javelin program is a localized system installed in a Compaq 486 dedicated computer in Roosevelt Gardens' security room. All wiring for the security systems, including video multiplexers, alarms, the access control intelligent panel, modems, receivers and transmitters for the Robot Research remote security system are located in this room.

"CCTV and alarms are integrated. All equipment is monitored with tamper alarms, and the closest camera automatically comes up onto the screen when the alarm sounds," says Weiss. Apex alarm panels and DSC alarms are used.

In the elevators, a help button is integrated with the alarms, cameras and audio.

Elevators are equipped with 1/3-inch format board cameras in a 16-gauge stainless steel housing designed for vandal resistance, with a photo sensor that would trigger an alarm if tampered with.

Both video images and an audio talk path are activated when the elevator's help button is pushed. The talk path is local, going from the elevator to the guard booth. The guard can then speak with the passenger to determine the problem at the same time a video image of the elevator appears on his monitor.

Cameras, all color, have been among the most effective security devices at Roosevelt Gardens. The four perimeter cameras include two pan/tilt/zoom and two fixed. The pan/tilt/zoom cameras are placed at diagonal corners of the complex and cover two sides each, while the fixed cameras include two lenses each. Each fixed camera, therefore, also covers both a length and width of the block-long complex. In this way, all four sides of the complex are covered.

"There was drug dealing behind the building, and that has stopped completely; the dealers became quite concerned when we installed the cameras," says Stephen Kraus.

Kraus is proud of the fact that residents' concerns were incorporated into the design of the cameras, which are as unobtrusive as they are effective.

Manufactured by Vicon, Sony, American Dynamics and Elmo, the cameras are housed in Pelco ED25 Series dome housings painted to match the aesthetics of the building. All are solid-state chip cameras, and outdoor cameras are climate-controlled with heaters and blowers so they can function in all weather conditions and resist moisture. Auto-iris lenses on most of the cameras compensate for changes in lighting from day to night. Except for the elevator cameras, most are 1/2-inch format. The laundry room contains a wide angle, 4mm lens.

In the Roosevelt security room, Dedicated Micros multiplexers process the camera images, which can be accessed remotely through ISDN phone connections by a Robot Research Hyperscan Ultra 2.01 system installed in a Gateway 200mHz computer at the control room of Kraus' Long Island City headquarters.

There, video images are viewed on four separate monitors, three of which are 17 inches and one large, 31-inch monitor.

Also in the Long Island City control room is the file server in which the Access Specialties Inc. Access Gold 500 multi-user version (AGM 500) software package has been installed. The Windows-based security management system features extensive alarm graphics that can be tied to floor plans and maps of the building.

The program contains reader and cardholder information, access assignments and an integrated badge creation application, Identifier for Windows, that enables Roosevelt Gardens to put photos on the access control cards. At the complex, children as well as adults will be issued cards. On site at Roosevelt Gardens, an IC 1600 intelligent control panel with a full database downloaded from the file server makes all access control decisions and automatically dials back to the L.I. City control room if an alarm is violated.

HID proximity readers at doors connect to Access Specialties' Reader Interface 110 boards that provide a door unlocking relay, alarm shunt relay, door open detects, tamper monitor points and a user-definable monitor point.

Category 5 copper wiring connects the readers to the intelligent panel on site and RS232 dial-up communications enables the modem connected to the panel to transmit and receive information to and from the main unit in L.I. City.

According to Lisa Otteson, director of sales & marketing for Access Specialties, a medium-size, 10-year-old company whose customers are primarily large commercial facilities, government institutions, educational, health care and financial organizations, the use of electronic access control in residential buildings is relatively new.

The Kraus Organization, she notes, is the only residential real estate customer Access Specialties has in the U.S. But there's no doubt in Otteson's mind that access control systems are effective security measures for low to middle-income residential buildings in neighborhoods where crime is a concern.

"Roosevelt Gardens Associates has been successful in cleaning up that area. It's amazing to walk down the street. There is graffiti all around, but their facility is beautiful. There's no graffiti, crime has been reduced, and it's a great place to live," remarks Otteson.

If the City of Detroit's Housing Authority is any indication of where high-tech security for the residential real estate industry is headed, a major trend seems to be under way. According to Kraus' Ken Weiss, HUD intends for the Detroit security program to be a pilot project for all future work, a comprehensive "City of the Future."

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