Wednesday, August 24, 2011

City needs better quality of life, not flashy events

Buz wonders: how much police resources are going to be drawn from the districts in order to support this event. How many specialized units will be forced to take their days off the week before or after, or both, in order to work this "cute" event?

And what about police, fire, EMS, and sanitation overtime? Oh, I had read that the race folks will pay the city the first $500K for services for this event. Um, I hope so. But, it's "free" money, isn't it? So, maybe city deployments should be all overtime?!
Buz hopes that Baltimore Racing Development comes through on its "bond" to pay us poor schmucks whose leaders fell for this charade.

City needs better quality of life, not flashy events

Friday, June 24, 2011

Nonprofit and churches need to think 'bout security

Buz published this article on a church security site not too long ago:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Odds and Ends from scraps of thought re: crime and police and security in Baltimore

Buz has not posted for a while since he's been a busy beaver with several security-related projects. However, there's been a lot going on in the crime/police/security world in Baltimore (and everywhere else, too).
So, some random, eclectic thoughts:
  • Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police members are voting on a new contract offer today. This is the first offer that I can ever remember, after 30 years working on the city police force, that the city offered a reduction in pay (in this case 1.95%). In exchange, the officers get 5 more days off in 2012. Part of ongoing strife between the city and FOP.
  • A small nonprofit Christian school in Hamilton got broken into, and all of their recently purchased (from a grant) computers were stolen, along with a lot of other items. Wonder why they think it's an "inside job"? Large scale computer room thefts associated with burglaries are not unusual. We can think of several, all unsolved: Bryn Mawr, Boys Latin, UMBC, a lawyer's office in Mt. Washington, et al. And I agree: in most cases, there is at least some inside connection, if only with information.
  • Recently, a whole tractor trailer loaded with new laptops bound for a Wal-Mart was stolen from a trucking company in Southeast Baltimore. The tractor was found not too far away, in Rosedale. The empty trailer was found a the Maryland House rest stop on I95. Betcha some insurance company is upset. Buz drove around the site and saw only very modest security arrangements. The Christmas season has begun! (This case almost certainly involved inside info!)
  • Speaking of non profits, I once wrote a letter to the head of a foundation, announcing the kickoff of my security consulting business. He wrote a nice letter back, saying he couldn't think of anybody who might use my services. Yet, like the nonprofit school mentioned above, many grant recipients get money to buy computers an other things, but have scant security measures in place to protect the foundation's investment. Nonprofits are especially vulnerable, me thinks, to criminal activity of all kinds.
  • The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations was supposed to have received a report from Johns Hopkins Hospital by now discussing the incident recently where a patient was shot and killed, and the shooter, her son, took his own life. I wonder what Hopkins' Risk Management wrote as to what processes they will put in place to see that an incident like this is not repeated. The Joint Commission only rarely gets involved in crime issues--mostly medical issues--but in this case a patient died. Magnetometers to check for firearms at Hopkins and most hospitals would be difficult to implement, costly, and of dubious effectiveness.
  • Your consultant recently was mentioned on the Mt. Washington list serve as a resource for people wanting to better secure their homes against burglaries. As a result Buz performed 3 residential security audits for homeowners in that beautiful community. Everybody was really nice and easy to work with!
  • Over the last year, we've made presentations to community associations on this very subject, home burglaries, including folks in Rodgers Forge and Bellona-Gittings in North Baltimore.
  • One doctor who works and teaches at Hopkins medicine had his house broken into and almost all his lectures were on the laptop which was stolen during the burglary. However, he said the police were very nice, and spent several hours processing the scene. And detectives came to his house almost every night during the next week to check on him and followup for any new leads or information. Well done!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ruminations on the shooting at Hopkins Hospital--a watershed event for hospital security?

Buz followed closely the shooting of a surgeon at the world-famous Johns Hopkins Hospital as it unfolded via Twitter and news reports.

So, he has some random, eclectic, and iconoclastic thoughts: mostly, of course, from the safety of hindsight, but also with an interest in security matters. Hopkins has a special place for me since I am a native Baltimoron, my mom worked there fro more than 20 years, and she died there holding my hand, and I worked there, briefly, in security, during the winter of 2004-2005.

  • Oddly enough, the shooter and I had some things in common: like him, I spent the last couple of nights in the hospital, one or two overnight, to be by my mother's bedside during the last couple of days of her life.
  • And, like him, I was armed, being a member of the Bmore Po-leece.
  • And though a doctor came and told me the day before (I still remember his face, but not his name), that medicine had nothing further to offer her and the end was near, I differed from the shooter inasmuch I didn't even think of shooting anybody. And though he seemed nervous, I thanked the doc, and appreciated that he didn't sugarcoat anything. In fact, she died the next day.
  • Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, I was working home at this computer when I saw a tweet coming over that a doctor was shot at JHH. Immediately, Justine Fenton and Peter Hermann began making crime tweets and reports, along with lots of otehr people.
  • Of course, initially, neither Hopkins staff nor the police knew what they were dealing with and many institutions have been haunted with the specter of Columbine and Virginia Tech.
  • However, we followed tapes of the 911 calls, and a number of calls were received pinpointing the location of the shooting and even the building and floor. (We wish the 911 Communications Assistants were not so abrupt and demanding when at the end of the call they said: what's your name!? Um, couldn't you, ladies, say it a bit more nicer than that?
  • We wish the shift commander, when the call went out over police radio, and several Eastern units announced they were responding, didn't say: what was that call? I know, lieutenants are in meetings and busy and stuff, perhaps preparing for Comstat. But wold have loved to have heard, instead: "I'm en route; units advise what you have asap".
  • Nevertheless, on the police channel, Eastern District units were on the scene of the correct building, on the correct floor, and were broadcasting the exact room number of where the shooter was, and that they had the floor in and the room covered---in about 3 minutes and a half after the call went out!
  • All the rest was hurry up and wait, as, unbeknownst to everyone, the suicidal/homicidal patent's son, immediately after shooting the doc, went into mom's room, shot her in the head, and then himself, and lay there for 2 hours, while he bled to death.
  • As with most incidents of this nature, the drama was over and done with quickly. But the officially mandated military-like, cover-all-bases drama went on for several hours, with the arrival of SWAT teams (including one from Baltimore County?!) [Research on school shootings, for example, shows that the vast majority are over and done in less than 15 minutes--usually with the shooter(s) killing themselves. Columbine's killings actually were over and done in 14 minutes, I believe.]
  • When the police's Mr. Data finally entered the room, it was clear what had happened hours ago.
  • These things can be very chaotic to manage and control from a command perspective. Just managing responding police and fire units, crowd control, evacuation, and traffic control, not to mention possible contingencies and exigencies, can be mind-boggling.
  • Buz doesn't think so much of Columbine, as he does of Mumbai--and that's the possibility departments must think about.
  • But it was good practice in emergency management for Hopkins and BPD, in an environment where realistic practice tests are hard to carry out.
  • Why the Baltimore County SWAT team? Are we in the city so short of personnel in that area? Is the depth of our units so low?!
  • Missing out of the main coverage of the story was: what happened to the doctor after he was shot and collapsed on the floor after dumb-dumb went into the room and did himself? Who were the hero or heroes at grave risks to themselves who got the doc on a stretcher/gurney, and then, somehow got him down to the ER, no doubt with assistance of JHH security and other staff. Buz would like to really hear more about him/her/them! Why'd they do it? Weren't they afraid? (I heard one of the them was a medical sales rep of some kind: no commission for that gig, though).
  • It was interesting hearing my old boss from both SED and JHH address the press mob after the incident and hearing him responds to questions, particularly the question about use of metal detectors. His answer was well thought and reasonable.
  • Wonder what other two hospitals that he knows of in the country have metal detectors. Why? How big are they? How do they manage them? Ah, questions, questions.
  • I was really pleased that right after this incident Police Commissioner Bealefeld chaired a meeting of security personnel and others and coached them on updating their emergency plans.
  • The Sun then comes out with an editorial saying Hopkins should "do some research" and learn what works best at keeping guns out and managing crowds. And they chastised the Security Director because, they would say, that airports handle a lot more people, per day, than the hospital does. Well, yes, but your tax dollars are paying for both the TSA guards doing the checking and the MDtA Police at the airport--who are both regularly present and heavily armed.
  • Buz has stood, on a number of afternoons and evenings at the main Wolfe Street entrance to the hospital--in the evening, and it can be chaotic with lots of people coming in and leaving every moment. Including Hopkins employees who either don't display their badge till asked or have it turned with the back displayed--and then still have to be asked to see it. It will take a whole culture change to switch to metal detectors and a lot more staff, believe!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The State's Attorney's election: what was at stake?

It's a bright new day in Baltimore. Gregg Bernstein, a white Jewish guy, won the State's Attorney's election, despite running in a city which is 65% African-American. And, in one of life's ironies, his incumbent opponent conceded on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur--the day of Atonement.

So, what was at stake, and what was it portending for Baltimore's future? Well, if Ms. Jessamy, the incumbent, had won, we would have gotten at least 4 more years of criminal "processing". Many, but not all, serious crimes were treated as paperwork to be processed. If one believed Page Croyder, a former State's Attorney, she had no interest in the war room--a regular meeting where, supposedly, the players in the criminal justice system came together to try to figure out how to combat these dangerous, repeated criminals which were destroying neighborhoods in our city and our poor, beleaguered city's reputation.

Buz also put a sign for Bernstein in the front yard of his North Baltimore row house, since he is not the police commissioner, he was able to do it without any controversy. I voted for (along with my beautiful wife) Bernstein, and supported him, because, in addition to the factors above:
  • Ms. Jessamy always seemed to be in a nasty, killer/attack mode. She looked like she was not a nice person and not easy to deal with.
  • And though I have compassion for her coming of age during the civil rights movement, with her, as with Faulkner, the past never seemed to be dead--it wasn't even past. She seemed to believe that all defendants were victims of society and police mistreatment. That the police must cross all the T's and dot all the i's, or she would not proceed. She did this in the face of overwhelming evidence that hardened, nasty criminals would most often target black people with vicious crimes, and intimidation--discounting the safety of the people she was sworn to protect.
  • She publicly announced how many "servings" of illegal drugs would have to be possessed by a defendant before she would proceed with charges of felony distributing--even if the drugs were sold to an undercover police officer or an informant. If you didn't have or sell x number, well, it was simple possession. And all the druggies, and their lawyers, knew it.
  • Her posturing, through her spokeswoman, about the police making thousands of illegal arrests when, in fact, the arrests met the standard of probable cause (mostly), but the State's Attorney's office created the new category of "abated by arrest", did not prosecute a legal arrest, but felt the arrest and brief incarceration took care of the matter. The result: the vast majority of people arrested for crimes of disorder, leaving our city feeling unsafe and out of control, now believed they were "victims" of an evil, out-of-control, racist, police force. When her office was just managing the numbers, she made a goblin and enemy out of the cops--instead of ne'er do wells who mess things up for Baltimore's law-abiding residents--by dealing drugs, drinking, fighting, creating disturbances, littering, and urinating on the street.
  • She has never gotten along with any police commissioner--except, perhaps, to some extent with Lenny Hamm. All the rest were enemies--filled with incompetent staff.
  • She did not fire, or even publicly chastise, her spokeswoman, Margaret Burns, for her insensitive remarks around the plea-bargain of the killers of Zach Sowers. "he was sleeping like a baby" and "he may have hit his head on the bumper of a car". Extremely insensitive remarks, which had to be listened to by the victim's wife and family. (Now, poor ole Buz will go out on a limb and say that, in this case, he actually agreed with the plea bargain, because the state did not have much evidence at all, and we'd rather get a conviction for something than nothing at all--but Burns didn't say that.)
  • That she seemed to take no responsibility at all for the shortcomings of the criminal justice system in Baltimore--unlike the police commissioner, who often said we've got to work harder.
  • She assumed no leadership role in try to fix Baltimore's broken criminal justice system; "everything all right; we're doing a fine job!" seemed to be all she was saying. Most Baltimorons like me and the ones I talked to didn't seem to agree.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Baltimore and its future: crime and the attack on bicyclists

The future of Baltimore is in bicycling, and in walking.

Or it would be except for the horrific news of attacks on bicycle riders in Baltimore's northern neighborhoods, especially near where Stephen Pitcairn was stabbed to death in a heartbreaking robbery heard by his mother hundreds of miles away.

First there was Dan Rodricks' piece on an attack on a cyclist during the day near the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. A lot can be said about that story, not the least of which was the slow and uninspired police response, both on the 911 operator, the officer, and most importantly how the police force is structured to respond to crime from law abiding citizens. (Betcha, 23-1, if I said my armored car just got held up and I'm following it on Falls Road, the response might have been a little better). It's nice that the guy who got pelted with stones was able to use some moral suasion to pester the kids into shaking his hand (some of them, anyway). Buz isn't sure about that's staying power. They learn to "bank" people for fun and power in their neighborhood, but it's usually someone we never hear about. [By the way, I wonder what that police report looks like, when the officer eventually did find the victim--if any report was even written-heh, heh, since, actually, the kids committed an attempted armed robbery.]

Then we learn about folks being attacked as they ride their bikes through the "red zone" between North Avenue and lower Charles Village. Groups of guys knock riders off their bikes, and one of them grabs the bike from the fallen victim, and rides off. This has happened even during the evening commute hour.

Our city's future and livelihood as a livable urban space is dependent on young persons, young professionals, artists, hipsters, and even good ole bike riders like yours truly getting out of their cars and riding to work or school or just around town. Our future depends on bicycling.

Yep, riding bikes. Nobody seems to get this yet. And our city leaders are all wrapped up in patting themselves on the back for looking backward and sponsoring the past: the silly Grand Prix race in downtown Baltimore. (Nascar has been losing attendance at many venues.)

Wouldn't it have been wonderful instead, if our leaders looked to the future and took the coming end of fossil fuels, global warming and the oil spill in the Gulf seriously? Many well-educated young professionals get it: they choose local, organic, they recycle and they bicycle and walk.

Can you imagine the leadership shown if Baltimore dedicated itself to being truly bicycle and pedestrian friendly for that week, and making an effort to make cycling to and from work a priority all the time? Instead we pander to corporate interests, desperate to get any hunk of money from them, which will never cover the city's costs to put on the event. Desperate for few more bucks for the hotels and minimum wage jobs many offer. For a week. For a city with one of the highest asthma and allergy rates in the country, one of the highest air polluted cities in the country, and a downtown already choked with traffic on weekends when really nothing is going on, and which has one of the longest average commutes in the country. Noise, pollution, street closings for people trying to get to work for weeks in advance, and after, oh, and yeah, sure, eventually we'll go swimming in the harbor. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of police and fire overtime needed for the event, as well--in this fiscally broke city.

But the bike robberies might get a few arrests, then they'll be forgotten. The message the city is sending: who cares about bikes and safe walking and stuff: let's all go to cars and race: it's great. Um, yeah, it's about as exciting as watching paint dry--till there's these great crashes and explosions. So, like Preakness, the city evolves into being an entertainment place for a few days, with lots of partying, drinking, out-of-towners having "fun", etc. But the city's real problems basically get unaddressed, because they're too hard.

There's a lot of anger out there between the "haves" and "have-nots", and it often leads to violence. There's little or no manufacturing jobs out there, and a large chunk of the city is a no-go zone, where an internal civil war rages over the "game", and the anger pops loose--mostly on weekends. One judge told me a couple of years ago, regarding our broken criminal justice "system", "the criminals aren't afraid of us anymore". He was meaning us in general--the taxpayers.

So, despite what you may have thought about former Mayor Dixon, she did have a vision of clean and green for the city, and was an avid bicyclist herself. As John Lennon might have said, Imagine: closing downtown streets, not for a car race, but for bicycling and walking, in an effort to get folks moving, healthy, and combating obesity, and doing it often, and using it as a marketing and selling point in conjunction with the city's other strengths. An effort to bring the city to a more human scale, where we get to chat and wave at each other and therefore become safer. Instead, we get 200mph cars racing each other downtown, and the bike robberies and "bankings" continue.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mayor says more cops!

Just heard on the news tonite the Baltimore's Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake is going to hire 100 new police officers by the end of this year, and 300 by the end of next year.

Hmm.. Maybe next year is an election year?!

When I was in graduate school, I took a course in Municipal Financial Planning taught by an adjunct, Mr. Lloyd Jones, who was then the budget director of Baltimore. He said, among many other things, : you, as a political official don't mess with the boys in blue, police and fire, or the teachers. Woe be unto the politician that does and wants to get elected.

Well, yes, but the rank and file think the our Mayor SRB has messed with them plenty (Buz doesn't totally agree, but gets the unions' point).

But perhaps she fully believes that the city will dramatically win the lawsuit the unions have lodged against the city because of the pension. Or, the announcement will simply keep the wolves from the door till after the election. Or the economy will suddenly get tremendously better. Who knows?