FBI-style security at the Manhattan East suite hotels
FBI-style security at the Manhattan East suite hotels

May 1, 2001 12:00 PM

The Benjamin Hotel, located in the heart of Manhattan, is owned by New York City's largest all-suite hotel group, the Manhattan East Hotels. Their slogan ¡ª "friendly service at convenient addresses that give visitors a taste of the 'New Yorkers' New York' ¡ª has brought all types of tourists and business people to the group's 10 hotels.

The Benjamin was purchased in 1997, and was named after Benjamin J. Denihan Sr., who founded Manhattan East Hotels in 1962. Today, the group of hotels is still a family-owned business run by Denihan's relatives.

At the security helm of the Manhattan East Hotels is William J. McShane, director of risk management. McShane has been with the hotel chain for eight years. Prior to joining the group, he was a supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. During his 25 years at the FBI, he was a squad supervisor, providing support to the intelligence community in New York City. He managed technical and security programs and investigated criminal and foreign counterintelligence. A licensed private investigator, McShane has lectured at several universities in New York on hospitality security issues.

As director of risk management at the Manhattan East Suite Hotels, McShane establishes security policies and directs the activities of the security and fire safety force for the 10 hotels, corporate offices and other commercial holdings.

Security is part of standard operating procedure at the hotels, says McShane. "We consider our guests and employees to be our greatest assets, and take their protection very seriously," he comments.

McShane has installed a Vingcard 3000 card access system throughout the company's facilities. More than 4,000 points across the entire group of hotels are protected by the Vingcard system. The Benjamin Hotel alone has more than 350 entry points on the system.

The critical areas of the hotel are covered by card access, "including all guest rooms, luggage storage rooms, executive offices, back-of-house areas, phone room, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning rooms, along with general storage locations," says McShane.

CCTV cameras located around the hotels include Sony SSC-104 and Watec LCL-125D mini-dome color units. The Benjamin has 32 cameras, located in lobbies and public areas, guest and service entrances, in all passenger and freight elevators, high-value storage locations such as mini-bar supplies and guest luggage rooms, and on executive floors.

Each hotel houses its own security control room which features ATV DPX16 color multiplexers, Sony SVTL200 time-lapse video recorders and Gyyr DQ44C digital quads. Sony 20-inch and 14-inch SSM20N1V and 8-inch PVM8040 color monitors are also incorporated into all the control facilities.

Another standard security feature at all Manhattan East Suite Hotels is that after 11 p.m., guest entrance doors are locked and admittance by the front desk staff requires photo identification of guests and visitors. The hotels use the Locknetics GF3000 series recessed electromagnetic locking system.

Access control at the corporate headquarters is governed by the Sensormatic C¡¤Cure proximity card system which runs on C¡¤Cure 750 software. The software provides an easy-to-use graphical user interface, as well as remote guard station terminal, graphic map displays for alarm monitoring and quick access to cardholder database from a pull-down menu. The audit facility reports all operator activity and provides real-time screen reports of monitor points, control points and readers.

There are approximately 30 II Proximity card readers by HID protecting access doors, executive offices and high security areas such as the computer and telephone rooms. The advantage to this system is the ability to use different proximity key types. Currently, both the flat credit card-type Isoprox II and the Proxkey proximity key fob are in use.

A Datacard photo Express ID system creates photo ID cards. The system delivers secure, high-quality photo IDs with color photographs of the employee and an encoded magnetic stripe that is used with a Kronos timekeeping system at the hotels. An employee swipes his ID card through the system to clock in and out. The system's database capability allows McShane to retrieve, view and print images and data stored on all employees who have ever been issued a card.

Security officers at the hotels are all proprietary. "We tried playing the 'mix-and-match' game, but it didn't work because of the quality of contract officers. We have a high standard of training," continues McShane.

The proprietary officers at the hotels receive various types of training.

"They receive the standard New York State training which consists of eight hours pre-assignment training and, within 90 days of being on the job, 16 hours of industry-specific training. Above and beyond that, we provide an additional 16 hours per year in a professional enrichment program that includes CPR training and training by instructors from the FBI, the United States Secret Service and the New York Police Department," he explains.

According to McShane, the Secret Service provides training on how his staff should integrate with Secret Service details. The NYPD addresses the topic of community police liaison, and the FBI covers terrorist profiles and dealing with bomb threats. The Manhattan East Suite Hotels often serves as the command post for Secret Service operations in the New York area.

Recently, the room attendant staff at the Benjamin Hotel reported that they were receiving small tips from guests after they checked out. They maintained that, given the high caliber of hotel patrons, their tips were normally a lot higher. McShane set up a bogus guest in one of the rooms as well as a covert camera placed in a tissue box. Monitoring the room from down the hall, McShane's staff discovered that, after the bogus guest checked out, a bellman returned to the room and removed part of the tip. If the guest left $20, the bellman replaced it with $10. The bellman was confronted with the evidence and was subsequently dismissed.

Another recent incident involved a report that women's room attendants were missing personal articles and money from their lockers.

"Since it was a women's locker room, we couldn't set up a covert camera. Instead, we dusted money with Fluorescent Invisible Detection Powder made by Fingerprint Labs and placed it in the lockers. All employees at the end of each day leave through the service entrance and have their bags checked by a security officer. On that day, we set up an ultraviolet light station at the service entrance. When the culprit placed her bag under the ultraviolet light, her hands glowed from the fluorescent detection powder. The thief turned out not to be an employee, but a person who was part of a work-study program for youths. She was reported to her school, and did not return to the hotel," explains McShane.

McShane has plans for the future of security at the group of hotels, including taking the CCTV digital. "We want to eventually turn over to all digital video cameras, as well as set up a digital archival system. We would like to use digital technology to remotely view and archive any and all cameras from one central location. It should relieve some of the burdens of equipment maintenance, and should enhance retrieval capabilities," he concludes.

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