The key to successful security tech deployment: community buy-in

by Jared Shelly

Life at the University of North Dakota is a picture of pure Americana. Students hang out on the campus’ gorgeous lawns in the fall and sled down hills in the winter. Everyone seems to cheer on the popular football team.

But like any college campus, security threats loom. UND is a soft target that’s intentionally open to the public — and in turn has plenty of vulnerable areas. In a world with increased mass shootings and seemingly random attacks like the 2016 vehicle ramming at Ohio State University, UND leaders set out to preemptively harden the target.

Eric Plummer, Chief of the UND Police Department, planned to increase surveillance camera placement, add electronic doors, and launch a drone program. But the university community — students, faculty and residents — wanted to make sure any security tech solution protects privacy and doesn’t turn their beloved campus into a fortress.

So rather than telling the university community which security solutions he was implementing, Plummer worked with them to make security decisions. Plummer found that the community actually wanted more surveillance cameras than police planned; approved of electronic doors so night-owl undergraduates could have safe spaces to study; and agreed with drone usage if they were notified of the operations beforehand.

“We’ve found that engaging with the community early on breaks down barriers, demystifies the technology, and gives people a level of comfort and trust,” said Plummer.

Whether you’re a police chief, school principal, or leader at a house of worship, adding advanced security technology is a big step. Communicating transparently from the earliest stages will help wrangle budget, and ensure the technology is adopted successfully. Getting that critical community buy-in isn’t easy, so follow these six steps to success:

Step 1: Communicate with stakeholders from the start. When you’re deploying security technology, whether it’s surveillance cameras or facial recognition, engage with the community at the very earliest stages of the process. Tony Foglia, Principal at AI Biometric Investments, who has installed facial recognition systems for several high-profile businesses, says early conversations are critical.

“I’m a big proponent of communicating to the user community prior to any implementation because a user acceptance plan will not only increase adoption but also increase the performance of the system itself,” he said.

Ensuring that privacy-aware community members actually opt in to using biometric technology, like getting their photos taken for a facial recognition system, means explaining that they’ll “be given the right-to-be-forgotten as dictated by GDPR whenever their participation is no longer required for the original specific intent and purpose on why the biometric information was obtained in the first place,” said Foglia. Remember, facial recognition is often more acceptable than, say, fingerprinting because of the ubiquitous nature of CCTV cameras and the strong association that fingerprints have with law enforcement procedures. “In both scenarios, people should be given a thorough explanation of how their data is being captured and protected, how and where it’s being stored, and if it’s ever being transmitted to other sources,” he said.

Thomas Ruskin, president of the CMP Protective and Investigative Group and a former New York City Police Department detective, recalled helping a synagogue and pre-school in Westchester County, N.Y. add bullet-resistant glass, security camera upgrades, tinted glass, and license plate readers that warn the approach of threatening cars. Such major upgrades required consultations with the rabbi, board of directors, congregants and parents.

“Engaging parents who are worried about active shooter scenarios is vastly different than engaging congregants,” said Ruskin. “Congregants are concerned about means of egress, and what to do if a catastrophic scenario should happen in the temple akin to the Tree of Life tragedy in Pittsburgh. Parents want to know how security procedures and drills affect their children’s mental health. We address all those concerns before implementing any technology.”

Step 2: Determine your security vulnerabilities. Enlist someone with professional expertise to evaluate your site. That can be a professional security consultant, security-minded community members (like the police officers in your congregation), or enlist the free services of your local police department’s crime prevention officer. Then you’ll know which areas to focus on.

Step 3: Don’t rush, even if you’ve got a budget to spend. Some organizations will secure a budget for a particular project, then rush to implement a solution. But remember to be methodical. “They’ll get three bids, select and move on. But they haven’t worked with their community to think through the vendor, solution, or implementation process. If problems do come up, it’s very hard to address them on the back end,” said Plummer.

Step 4: Privacy is crucial. With laws like GDPR and CCPA on the books, privacy is a major concern. If you’re filming people, who sees it? Is footage deleted after a certain period of time? Is it protected from hackers?

“We live in a society where people don’t have the same expectations of privacy they used to have. People understand the level of surveillance happening when they’re shopping in a store or walking to their car in a parking lot,” said Ruskin. “As long as we can show people that the material is not being reviewed unless there is an incident and that it’s deleted in a timely fashion, they’re comfortable with it.”

Step 5: Never sacrifice community needs for budget. If your community sets security expectations and standards, you can’t sacrifice them if presented with a less expensive solution. “In that case,” said Plummer, “you end up breaking the trust of your community and you really never get it back.”

Step 6: Make it convenient for the end user. Security tech shouldn’t get in the way. We all know what it’s like going through airport security, and we don’t want that every time we enter the workplace or drop off our children at school. Making sure the security tech is convenient for the end user is crucial. For example, if you’re implementing facial recognition, place the camera in an intuitive place so people can simply glance at the camera and move on. That convenience will not only save time; it will increase adoption too.

Jared Shelly is a freelance writer who writes about business and emerging technology. The opinions and positions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions and positions held by Patriot One Technologies and inclusion of persons, companies, or methods herein should not be interpreted as an endorsement.

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