Thieves sent packing at Roosevelt
Thieves sent packing at Roosevelt

Dec 1, 1998 12:00 PM

New York City hotels occasionally suffer invasions. Teams of well-dressed "bag boosters" enter the hotels, stake out the lobbies and wait. Unattended, or even attended, guest luggage is their target. When the time is right, the bag boosters strike. "One bag booster will ask an unwitting hotel guest for directions, another will further distract the person, while a third walks away with the victim's luggage," explains Vincent Calderon, who, as director of security for the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, has seen the scam unfold firsthand.Calderon foils the thieves by using undercover personnel. He and his staff recently removed a team of well-known bag boosters from circulation.In addition to undercover personnel, a security upgrade at the Roosevelt Hotel has thieves on the run. Another recent incident involved guest complaints that items were missing from their luggage after it had been stored. Calderon and his assistant set up surveillance equipment in the bellmen's storage closet and caught an employee in the act of "lifting" items from suitcases. The employee was arrested.

A New York iconEven among the towering skyscrapers of New York City, the Roosevelt Hotel stands out. Not far from Grand Central Station, it attracts all kinds, from heads of state to notable entertainment figures to thousands of tourists and business people. "Meet me under the clock at the Roosevelt," has been a popular saying among New Yorkers since the building opened in 1924.The hotel, featuring 1,013 guest rooms and a multi-tiered lobby accented by original crystal chandeliers, recently underwent a two-year, $65 million renovation. Because it is the center of attention in the Grand Central area, the hotel also has become the center of attention for pick-pockets, vandals and thieves. Calderon, a former officer with the New York Police Department, has been with the hotel since it reopened in April of 1997. Due to the security systems and procedures, Calderon says the hotel enjoys a significantly lower crime rate than some of its neighbors. Calderon also credits management, which supports a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to security.Fifteen proprietary officers make up Calderon's security force, which includes three supervisors and an assistant director of security. Officer training, in addition to training mandated by the State of New York, is provided within the department for arrest and administrative procedures, handling of bomb threats, identifying suspicious packages and proper use of fire extinguishers. All house officers wear name tags and dark suits, provided by the hotel, and carry Motorola Visar walkie-talkies.

Thieves fall prey to trapsTo test the integrity of hotel employees, Calderon sets up various scenarios. For example, if he suspects an employee of theft, Calderon launches a sting operation by placing desirable objects in the suspect's work area. He has even set up a fictitious guest in a room, complete with unpacked luggage and a Rolex watch lying around, as well as cash and other valuables. The fictitious guest is always someone from the outside, so no hotel employees, including the security staff, know the guest room is fake and under surveillance. That way, fellow employees cannot tip off the suspect, Calderon says.Suspected employees are sometimes monitored for weeks, via a wireless covert camera. "You lose a lot less if you are proactive, rather than taking a report and asking some questions, then sitting around and letting it happen again," says Calderon.

Systems on the jobCalderon relies on a Saflok card access system by Computerized Security Systems, Troy, Mich., to help identify individuals who enter rooms illegally. With the ability to program and interrogate locks, the system gives details on when a particular room was entered and exited. Each programmed lock records up to 150 transactions and can be assigned different levels of usage. The system also is used on linen closet doors. CCTV is another important aspect of security at the hotel. Installed by MSI Security Systems, Kerny, N. J., the system includes Pelco Spectra Domes in the main lobby area and the 45th and 46th Street entrances. Stationary Panasonic WVCT- 224 1/3-inch CCD cameras keep vigil in a secondary main lobby, the safe deposit box area and the main elevator lobby. Others watch the hotel's arcade level elevator doors and the concierge desk.Calderon plans to increase the number of cameras currently in use. "My goal is to have a camera on every floor of the hotel," he says.

Covert monitoringCovert cameras are located in the hotel's freight elevator, at the employee's entrance and in the health club. Why one in the freight elevator? "We get acts of accidental and intentional vandalism by vendors and hotel employees," replies Calderon. "For example, the manually operated elevator-control switch handle has been accidentally, and intentionally, broken in the past. Because of the covert camera, we've caught the individuals and had them pay for its repair." Calderon also monitors the security staff with covert equipment. For example, he monitors the security "graveyard shift" because there is less management available during those hours. He periodically reviews tapes from the previous night.Employees must enter and leave the hotel via the employee entrance. Any employee attempting to leave by a guest entrance is immediately stopped by security personnel and written-up for disciplinary action. All bags carried by employees upon exiting are subject to search. The one-way-in, one-way-out approach drastically minimizes employee thefts, notes Calderon. Equipped with Sony Trinitron SSM-14N1E color monitors and a Pelco CM 8500 Series matrix switcher, the main control room is housed in Calderon's office, and a satellite control room is positioned at the employee entrance. Both locations include Panasonic RT 600 real-motion, 24-hour, time-lapse recorders. An Auto Call fire system is also part of Calderon's operation. A fire command station in the lobby is manned by deputy fire safety directors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If a manual-pull or smoke-condition alarm is received by the command station, the deputy fire safety director on duty determines the exact location of the fire and dispatches an internal fire brigade from the engineering department. At the same time, ADT receives an alarm and notifies the New York Fire Department.Access Control

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