Sep 1, 1999 12:00 PM

Paul Carter, director of security for the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, learned through a reliable source recently that four employees were stealing alcohol and eating unauthorized food. The problem posed a threat to the reputation of the 111-year-old landmark hotel, famous for its elegance, high-profile guests and standards of service.

Typically, when the hotel bars closed at 2 a.m., the alcohol figures would tally correctly, but the next day bottles of liquor would be missing. It appeared the thefts were taking place in the late evenings while employees were stocking beverages in the bar storage department.

Carter turned to covert video surveillance to get results. He contacted Sperry West in La Jolla, Calif., and described the layout of the alcohol cellar to a technical advisor. Together, they decided on the ideal location to install a pinhole-lens camera, and Carter rented the equipment needed for surveillance.

On the first day of surveillance, Carter recorded two employees consuming and stealing food and beverages belonging to the hotel. Two days later, he caught another five employees involved in inappropriate behavior. He decided to leave the surveillance up for several weeks. He made clear and identifiable recordings of eight of the nine employees in the department eating, drinking and stealing alcohol belonging to the hotel. Four of the employees have been terminated and the hotel is now litigating against the others.

Paul Carter has found that videotape surveillance is economical, efficient and effective. And the evidence allows the hotel to deal with inappropriate behavior quickly and with cause.

The recently concluded Model States Program, conducted by the Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation (AIREF) False Alarm Reduction Coalition, was a success, according to Chief Mike Shanahan, co-chair of the IACP Private Sector Liaison Committee. The program was conducted in partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in Illinois, Florida, Washington and California.

The results demonstrate that the rate of false dispatches can be substantially reduced.

Major conclusions:

* 80 percent of false alarms are triggered by 20 percent of alarm users. Solving the problem in only 20 percent of the alarm population has the potential to eliminate up to four out of five false dispatches.

* An alarm ordinance is a highly effective tool in managing false dispatches.

* The major source of false activations continues to be user error. Therefore, initial and ongoing training is essential in maintaining a low dispatch rate.

The AIREF False Alarm Reduction Coalition includes membership from the four major North American alarm associations: the Canadian Alarm and Security Association (CANASA), Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) and the Security Industry Associ ation (SIA). Bob Ohm, chairman of the False Alarm Reduction Coalition, noted that the program generated unprecedented levels of cooperation between enforcement authorities and the industry, and has lead to a positive spirit of teamwork.

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