How can you keep public buildings safer from crime?
For business owners and property managers, it remains a universal challenge: How do you ensure the security of your staff and customers during hours of operation and protect your assets once regular business hours end? The conundrum that is security and safety in public spaces seems eternal, and the violence that fuels today’s headlines only exacerbates the urgency to find solutions to securing common building entrances.
Crime Stats Drop, Yet Perception of Crime Remains High
Oddly enough, both violent crime and property crime have actually declined significantly over the last decade. Using the FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 51 percent between 1993 and 2018, while according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics data, the rate fell 71 percent during that span. The long-term decline in violent crime hasn’t been uninterrupted, though. The FBI, for instance, reported increases in the violent crime rate between 2004 and 2006 and again between 2014 and 2016. Like the violent crime rate, the U.S. property crime rate today is far below its peak level. FBI data shows that the rate fell by 54 percent between 1993 and 2018, while BJS reports a decline of 69 percent during that span.
In the public’s mind, however, and that of most security directors and business owners, while the crime statistics might indicate a downward trend, in this case perception equals reality. Between 1993 and 2018, 18 of 22 Gallup surveys show that at least 60 percent of Americans believe that there is more crime in the U.S. compared to the year before, while a Pew Research Center survey taken in late 2016 said that 57 percent of registered voters in the U.S. believe crime had escalated since 2008 countering both FBI and BJS data showing the double-digit drops in both crime areas.
Mitigating Risk at the Main Entrance
Whether the security risk is real or perceived, there is no argument that a comprehensive and strategic approach to potential threats at a facility’s main entrance is crucial. All public buildings that absorb heavy foot-traffic like libraries, museums, government offices, court facilities, urban high-rises, retail stores and banks must insulate themselves from the tangible impact of crime that inevitably could result in brand damage, property loss, disruption of business or service and potentially even legal liabilities.
When weighing their options, if management relies on video surveillance and guards alone, a bad actor can still penetrate the building and cause potential harm. Imagine a flash mob or protestors, or a woman being pursued from the parking lot by a mugger, or armed people trying to get inside. In these situations, you need something that can handle normal public traffic throughout the day but can also potentially stop ingress of obvious bad actors.
Having said that, once the public is inside the building, you can have further access controls in place to control who can go where and deter crime. For example, visitors can check in or register at a front desk and then use issued credentials to enter through security turnstiles to go deeper into the building. This trend is starting to take hold in libraries, hospitals, museums and so on. But, this article will focus on the main entrance itself and how you can have public access but also some level of control and security.
Why a Manual Revolving Door Makes Sense Today
So, what is usually the most vulnerable point in a public building? In almost every instance it is the exterior door which is often a public entrance during hours of operation. Being able to control the flow of traffic at a main entrance increases the probability of staving off dangerous encounters and violent behavior if front desk personnel or security guards can remotely lock down the exterior entrance.
The most typical solution specified by A&Es is manual revolving doors for new construction because they save space and energy while elevating the prestige of a building. They are “always open” to pedestrians and “always closed” to the outside elements, creating comfortable and draft-free building interiors.
A manual revolving door at the front entrance of a public building, such as a hotel, office building, condominium, or municipal building should also include security options. Security options are a new development that is only about 15 years old and most people don’t know about them. Whether there is an unwanted guest immediately outside the door, or the facility manager is locking up for the night, security options allow for an added layer of protection. Manual revolving doors can include the following security options to enhance security functionality:
- Emergency security lockdown. In the event of an immediate security threat outside the entrance (protests, drunk and disorderly conduct, etc.), staff can electrically lock the door wings immediately, regardless of position, at the push of a remotely located button, keeping danger from entering through the front doors. This can buy precious time for security staff or the police to deal with the danger happening outside.
- Remote locking. In years past, building staff had to walk up to a door and push a pin manually into the floor itself to lock a revolving door for the night. Today, staff can remotely push a button to lock door wings for the night, or, an access control system can lock the door wings automatically. If anyone is still in transit in a compartment during the lock command, the door lets them through and then slows down and stops with the wings pointed at the end posts in the “x” position and locks for the night. Once locked, internal guard staff can unlock it remotely when there is a visitor and they are “approved” via communication on an intercom system.
- Access control integration. Secure afterhours access is possible via an access control device mounted on the outside of the door. Upon valid authorization, usually by means of an access card reader, the door wings will unlock and the user can push to enter the facility. Once all compartments are clear, the door slows down rotation, positions itself and relocks. This also diminishes the risks of security breaches via tailgating and piggybacking.
While the statistics indicate we are in a period of relatively safer streets and lower crime, public buildings must remain vigilant in protecting visitors, staff and assets from criminal acts that can occur due to intrusion. There is too much liability that cannot be ignored. With the new security options that are available today on manual revolving doors, these doors have become an innovative way to increase security at the building envelope where unrestricted access and ease of use are required. In addition, a great side benefit is their ability to also significantly reduce air infiltration from the outside and save energy, even at the busiest entrances.