Philadelphia's Marriott no easy mark
Philadelphia's Marriott no easy mark

Oct 1, 1999 12:00 PM
Carol Carey

As a Philadelphia police officer for 30 years, George Graves got to know the streets well. He learned that criminals go toward easy marks. And, when he became director of loss prevention for the 23-floor Philadelphia Downtown Marriott Hotel in January of 1995, he was determined that would-be thieves would not see the hotel, which then had 1,200 rooms and has since expanded to 1,416 rooms, as an easy mark.

"A message has to go out on the street: it's easy or hard to steal. We convey the message (that it's hard) through high visibility," says Graves of his 33-person, in-house security staff. "The staff is aggressive, but not offensive, when they suspect someone."

The staff, which is unarmed, has had its visibility bolstered by a variety of security systems. There is a 43-camera CCTV system wired into a room with 15 monitors. In the new tower section there is an upgraded alarm system with 40 alarm points. A carefully controlled master key system enhances guest room security. There is a computerized card reader system for guest room and exterior doors which interfaces with the hotel's information system - the Property Management System.

When a new Marriott Courtyard opens this November across the street from the Downtown Marriott, in the restored City Hall Annex building, Graves will oversee the 495-room hotel with the help of an additional nine security officers, along with an integrated CCTV and alarm monitoring system, according to Patrick Murphy, director of loss prevention technical services for Marriott Lodging, Washington, D.C., which manages more than 700 domestic and international hotels.

JOB ONE: FIGHTING THEFT The combination of Graves' police background, his staff's alertness, and the hotel's surveillance system has already helped the security department to successfully fight what Graves considers his number one challenge: theft.

"Thefts from conference rooms and guest meeting rooms are a concern," he says. "Guests come into the hotel and may get careless with their personal belongings, bringing a $2,000 laptop computer in the conference room and walking out," he says.

A bridge between the main hotel and the new tower is also vulnerable, as are three high-traffic, public access floors.

Graves describes how an observant security officer, with the help of a strategically placed camera - and a skilled staff - helped apprehend a thief during the past year.

"The camera on the bridge allowed her to see a gentlemen with a bag on his shoulder. She didn't know what was in it, but he looked suspicious. He was looking over his shoulder. She zoomed in and watched him. Shortly afterwards, we received a call from a guest that his laptop had been stolen. We rewound the tape and took a picture of the suspect.

"The next day," continues Graves, "this same man returned to the fifth floor with a friend. My lead officer recognized him from the picture we'd taken the previous day, and asked him if she could help him. He said he was looking for a job. She said she thought she could help him.

"The officer then put in a call for help to our security station, and three to four officers responded within a minute, making a citizens' arrest," recalls Graves. "Then, we called the City of Philadelphia police."

The man's friend confessed that his buddy had taken the laptop the day before and that they had returned to commit another theft.

USING CAMERAS WISELY Graves uses his Burle/Philips camera system wisely, assigning cameras at the most vulnerable and highly used areas to dedicated monitors and putting the others on a constant scroll. Integrator/installer ADT Security Services Inc., Newport, Del., upgraded the security system when the new, 210-room tower section was added in May of 1999. ADT is also the integrator/installer for the new Courtyard and for other security upgrades at the hotel.

There are presently 43 cameras at the Downtown Marriott, seven color, 15 pan/tilt/zoom. There are 15 Burle and Philips monitors in the loss prevention office's monitoring station, 11 9-inch, two 17-inch, one 15-inch and one 21-inch. Three 24-hour, time-lapse Philips VCRs are affixed to three Philips multiplexers. All the cameras operate 24 hours per day.

"My associate will zoom in if she sees something out-of-order. We can pinpoint the time an employee came or left if necessary," notes Graves.

AN INTEGRATED CCTV/ALARM SYSTEM Graves would like to eventually have an integrated CCTV/alarm system for the Downtown Marriott. Such an integrated system will be in place, however, when the new Courtyard opens, with an Philips Allegiant 8500 multi-system PC software package used to control the CCTV system, which interfaces with a ADT Focus 200 Quantum alarm control system. "The cameras will be prepositioned so that upon activation of a particular alarm point the corresponding camera point will come up on one of the monitors," says Murphy.

Ten fixed Burle cameras and three pan/tilt/zoom units will be placed in the new Courtyard, along with one 20-inch and two 9-inch monitors and two VCRs.

While the alarm system at the Downtown Marriott has not yet been interfaced with the CCTV system, it has nevertheless been upgraded. When the tower section was opened this past spring, a Focus 200 Quantum alarm system was installed by ADT. The existing, main hotel was already equipped with a Radionics alarm system.

"The new system allows us to attach up to 255 alarm points to a panel, or control pad. Right now, we have approximately 40 points hardwired to the control pad," says Graves. "The pad is located at our base monitoring station and, when an alarm goes off, it prints out the pertinent information, such as where the breach occurred, on the printer connected to it. Alarm points are located at exit doors in the main building and the towers," says Graves.

CARD SYSTEM NETWORKS WITH INFORMATION SYSTEM The Downtown Marriott also has an extensive card reader system, the Saflok Computerized Security System, which controls access to guest room and exterior doors. The Saflok software is installed in an NCR PC with a 15-inch monitor. At a computer network interface station, the Saflok system, with its key makers and encoders, is networked with the hotel's information system.

When a guest registers at the hotel, he is assigned a room. The information is put into the hotel's system and automatically downloaded into the Saflok software program as well, making it available at the check-in stations, which are equipped with encoders and card makers. The hotel has 13 check-in stations, with every two stations sharing a card maker and encoder.

Both the Saflok and proprietary management systems are installed on main servers as well as redundant back-up computers. The Saflok system includes hand-held computer probes that make it possible to get a history of a particular room lock. The history will go back up to 150 entries. "We have had situations where keys were used without authorization, which is grounds for immediate dismissal," says Graves.

A master key system helps Graves keep such occurrences to a minimum. When employees need access to clean rooms or to deliver items for guests, they must sign out a master key, leaving their own picture ID cards with a security officer.

"They sign their name in a log along with the time they took the key out; the security associate also initials the log," says Graves. "We have different sets of masters, such as masters which open all rooms, and floor masters which open only the rooms on a particular floor."

The locks on the guest room doors are self-contained, battery-powered locks; while the locks on exterior doors depend on 110v electrical power.

To increase security in those areas most vulnerable to theft - such as the conference rooms - special cores are, on occasion, put in the locks. A large or important meeting might require such measures. When the locks are modified, the only hotel employees who are allowed access to the room are security personnel.

"You cannot put cameras inside the conference rooms, so they are vulnerable to theft," says Graves. "We do place cameras just outside the conference rooms." With the special cores, the hotel is able to give the guests extra security should they leave a laptop or other expensive equipment unattended in a conference room.

THE PROACTIVE METHOD In keeping with his decision to "get the message out on the street" of an active security program, Graves takes a proactive approach to medical as well as security emergencies. He is encouraging his officers to get their emergency medical technician (EMT) certification, and five have already done so, with three more expected to receive their certification this month.

Located in the heart of Philadelphia's business district, and connected to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Downtown Marriott, with its 76 suites, 50 meeting rooms and total of 117,000 square feet of meeting space, presents a formidable security challenge. That challenge is being met with a combination of technology and dedicated security personnel who have mastered the art of making guests feel both welcome and safe.

  • Pronto controls Comfort Alarm
  • Eight-store appliance/electronics chain in New Jersey minimizes losses
  • Small Montana Airport Takes Big Security Role
  • Color IR Dome Video Security Camera
  • WAP Works
  • FAA provides application opportunities for suppliers
  • Uncle Sam Wants Private Guards
  • Distribution center replaces shoe leather with technology
  • Getting integrated security down to a science at Perkin-Elmer
  • Keeping Customers Safe While Protecting Company Assests
  • Digital cameras: yesterday, today and tomorrow
  • Discussion on Security Camera