Time Is About to Run Out for the Bad Guys

The time has come for us, as electronic security practitioners, to step back and take a long, hard look at what we are truly doing. Ask yourself, are the security measures you provide society really effective?

Historically, security and law enforcement—whether dealing with terrorism or crime—has amounted to action after the fact. For example, CCTV cameras capture criminal acts that are used to apprehend the offender AFTER the event. Similarly, burglar alarms communicate AFTER someone has broken into the premises.

Let’s face it, if someone wants something badly enough, any security system can be compromised; it’s all in the timing. The fact is, all security systems are merely time-delay devices. And the longer it takes a burglar, intruder or terrorist to find a way around a system, the better that system is deemed. This holds true for simple measures such as yard signs or “The Club” for automobiles, as well as complex surveillance or alarm systems. These measures are impediments and deterrents to crime; they do not stop it.

Security has always been, and will continue to be, after the fact unless we take extreme action to overhaul a system full of holes. Wouldn’t it be a lot better to provide true prevention, foiling wrongdoers before the fact? I believe that is the direction electronic security must move in, and technology is finally making it possible.

Security has always been a patchwork of individuals or companies doing whatever they believed to be the most prudent approach to protecting their people and property. The most glaring example of this is the World Trade Center. Even though the facility had the utmost level of electronic security systems and procedures, it could not stop two jumbo jets from crumbling it to the ground. Adhering to high security in one area, such as the World Trade Center, and weak or nonexistent security in another, such as an airport, ultimately leads to failure. The security chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

I believe we can and must begin preventing crime from happening, and get society more involved in catching known criminals and terrorists. How? Through the use of facial-recognition systems (see Scott Goldfine’s cover story on page 36 for more on this new, controversial technology).

Here’s how I see it coming together. The national, state and local governments would unite to create a database of known unsavory individuals (the National Crime Information Center [NCIC] could be used immediately) that corporations, government and third-party, video-enabled central monitoring stations would be able to tie into.

All transportation centers, DMVs and financial institutions, among other locations, would then be able to transmit facial characteristics of their customers to be checked against the database. Eventually, even retailers could tap into this system.

This national system would ensure that no evildoer could travel, get a license or shop without eventually getting caught! To get the general population more involved, a retailer incentive program similar to state lotteries could be established in which, if the criminal is apprehended and convicted, the original caller would be entitled to a monetary reward.

Importantly, the system I am proposing would NOT be an invasion of privacy because photos would not be kept on tape or disk. Rather, they would be immediately discarded after comparison. This scenario would allow honest, hard-working citizens to enjoy their lives without being harassed by security procedures that amount to nothing more than going through the motions, which is what I call an invasion of privacy.

They say that timing is everything. Well, the time has come for electronic security professionals to move beyond time-delay devices in order to ensure good people make the most of their time and that the bad seeds spend their time behind bars where they belong.

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