Walking the Line Between Safety and Privacy Keeping Your Building Secure

When it comes to the things that people value most, personal safety and security rank right at the top of the list. That's especially true in a day and age filled with ongoing anxiety over everything from identity theft to car jackings to terrorist attacks. All that most people want is to feel safe and secure, especially in their own homes.

How much security is too much security, though, in terms of privacy? Achieving that delicate balance between safety and privacy is the goal of every board and management team, and for the most part, say the experts, it's something that's being achieved quite well in buildings throughout the city.

Knowing the Options

Knowing the needs of a building and its residents should be the first step in determining what kind of safety and security plan will work best and prove most effective. "Security is a term used for many different items," says Dr. Mark Lerner, criminologist and owner of Manhattan-based EPIC Security Corp. "It can mean lighting, fencing, security personnel, closed circuit TVs (CCTVs), electronic alarm systems and electronic access control. Each type of residence has different needs. A gated community will have different needs than a high rise." Which means that every building needs its own individual security plan.

It's important that boards and management consult professional security advisors when devising their plan. Tim O'Brien, president of Criminal Intelligence Administration in Queens, says that effective plans are the ones that are multi-faceted, involving a good balance of personnel, well-written plans and procedures as well as technology. "You want a nice combination that's layered and overlaps, so that if one part fails, there's something else to back it up," he says.

Understanding the Options

For a significant number of buildings in New York City, security personnel are among the most popular solutions for solving the safety issue. Lerner's firm specializes in security guards. "September 11, 2001 was the date of the sea change in how people thought of security," Lerner says. "Right after 9/11, the use of security guards went up 25 to 30 percent overnight. People were asking for armed security guards, especially in buildings that felt they could be targets, places where foreign heads of state or political figures lived. In the six years since then, there has been a lessening in demand, but overall, there was probably a solid 10 percent increase in the use of guards."

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