April 4th, 2015

Crime Starts in the Lobby

by George Avgerakis

Security camera

When addressing crime in urban apartment buildings, the key focal point is the public lobby.  Ground floor windows, easily reached balconies, service entrances and subterranean passages are usually hardened against crime by architects and builders.  The lobby remains the single point of entry for both residents a

nd their guests, who belong in the building, and criminals, who do not.

Lobby related crimes range from simple loitering (of which residents are sometimes guilty) to malicious mischief, domestic violence, burglary, drugs, assault, pedophilia and rape.  While loitering on the front steps and exterior approaches to a lobby produce a safety hazard and difficulty in entry, the interior spaces of a lobby afford the invader with protection from weather, invisibility from the law, and opportunities to prey on unsuspecting residents.

Chart showing how money will be allocated to improve security in NYC public housing.

Chart showing how money will be allocated to improve security in NYC public housing.

New York City Comptroller Scott M Stringer released an audit in December, 2014, showing the city’s Housing Authority faced a large budget deficit and unfunded capital needs of about $18 billion.   (MORE) Faced with less money to fight crime, tenants are applauding efforts to install robotic cameras in NYCHA lobbies that identify suspicious individuals based on their loitering activities.

With smaller budgets, police are hard pressed to provide adequate protection and the possibility of incidents like a recent case where a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man in a darkened public housing stairwell in Brooklyn, underscores the need for higher efficiency and reduced risk of human error.

NYCHA General Manager Cecil House joined Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., and NYPD officials on April 4, 2013, to announce the indictment of 63 gang members for activity on NYCHA property.

NYCHA General Manager Cecil House joined Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., and NYPD officials on April 4, 2013, to announce the indictment of 63 gang members for activity on NYCHA property.

Recently, Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. provided $101 million for new security measures at 15 high-crime developments in the city.  (MORE)  The money came from French bank BNP Paribas, which forfeited millions when it violated United States securities laws.  Vance’s allocation will be put into upgrades like new security cameras, permanent exterior lighting and enhanced entry security at 15 complexes which account for some 20% of all violent crime in the housing authority’s 334 units.

Robotic video cameras can be equipped with software that recognizes human forms in the lobby without regard to any form of specific identification such as skin color, facial features or clothing.  Once the human form is identified, the equipment can track movement, counting the seconds during which the person does not move from one position.  Since the time of little or no movement can be used to define an act of loitering, an alarm can be established whenever a human form lingers in a building lobby or on the front steps in a manner which can be defined as violating rules, regulations or city laws.

Once the alarm has been tripped, the camera can send its signal to a trained security monitor who can examine the specific scene and determine the nature of the violation.  Is it a mother tending to a medical need of a child, or is it a person enjoying a questionable substance?  Once a loitering violation is determined, the monitor has the capability of addressing the offender over a loudspeaker.  The responses of violators has been found to range from complaint to colorfully expletive.  Whatever the response, the violator is courteously informed that he or she must leave the premises or authorities will be summoned.  This notice is rarely if ever met with resistance since the perpetrator knows that video recording is in progress and that the recording can serve as court evidence.

By reducing loitering in the most vulnerable areas of a large apartment house, consequent reductions in crime have been dramatically demonstrated.







What is a Cyber Doorman?

December 29th, 2012

As defined in Wikipedia under internet-related prefixes, Cyber- is a prefix derived from “cybernetic,” which comes from the Greek adjective κυβερνητικός meaning skilled in steering or governing (Liddell and Scott, Greek-English Lexicon). It is used in the terms cybersex, cyberspace, cyberpunk. Cybernetics is relevant to the study of systems, such as mechanical, physical, biological or cognitive and, when applied to types of human activity such as a cyber doorman, implies robotics.

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How to Avoid Contractor Scams After Hurricane Sandy

December 5th, 2012

by Larry Dolin

The vast majority of contractors – security companies, plumbers, electricians, and roofers – are ethical and are committed to helping those in need in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.  However, the urgency of the situation, coupled by the desperation of the victims allows for victims to be exploited by unethical contractors – scammers – who are trying to take advantage of the situation. If you are a victim of Hurricane Sandy, don’t become a victim of thieves masquerading as contractors! Here are some tips to help you avoid hiring scam contractors.

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Home and Business Security after Superstorm Sandy

December 5th, 2012

by Larry Dolin

Along with loss of heat and electricity, loss of personal safety and security ranks as one of the most urgent issues following the ravages of Superstorm Sandy.  All affected areas have reported two forms of theft which seek to exploit the vulnerabilities of the vicims:  Looting and Contractor Fraud. Read the rest of this entry »

Little Known Technology Provides Key to Safety

November 21st, 2012

The prestigious journal of real estate security, The Mann Report, recently carried an informative article on how American Security Systems has been  employing digital pattern recognition to identify loiterers in lobbies and other public spaces in residential buildings.  Highly successful, the system requires no direct human supervision, except when loiterers are identified.  Read the rest of this entry »

Many smaller buildings with eye on safety turn to video doorman

May 1st, 2010


In apartment and condo sites too small to afford a flesh-and-blood doorman, the video variety is catching on.

Video doormen have been protecting residents and their packages in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, and now are crossing the Hudson and sparking interest in New Jersey with two Hoboken communities signed on and several more targeted.

“A lot of people are coming from midtown Manhattan and expect doorman services,” said Larry Dolin, president of American Security Systems Inc. in Long Island City, N.Y., and inventor of Video Doorman – on the market since 2007. Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Considered a Video Doorman?

April 13th, 2010

By Marla Diamond Reporting WCBS 880 Reporter

Hoboken gets Video Doorman

March 1st, 2010

By News 12

Hoboken gets New Jersey’s first “Video Doorman”

November 10th, 2009



It doesn’t help you with your bags, pet your dog or hold open the door. But it does accept packages and even provides some security.

The system, which was recently installed at Vesta Hoboken, a new condo building at 609 Observer Highway, will accept packages and provide security at about a dollar a day per unit, some 10 times less than a traditional doorman. For buildings over about 35 units, the cost goes down to about 50 cents per unit per day, said Larry Dolin, president of American Security Systems, which provides the product. Read the rest of this entry »

American Security Systems has banner year with fire alarms, Video Doorman and integrated systems

November 11th, 2008


This September ended the 29th year of American Security Systems, with its highest sales ever. According to Larry Dolin,president and founder, American is just reaching its stride. Over the years the company has grown froma basic residential central station alarm provider, into one of the leading total security systems companies in New York. Read the rest of this entry »

Video Doorman installations from American Security Systems are on the rise

April 14th, 2008

By Larry Dolin


The more the market tightens, the owners/developers are looking to provide a “competitive edge” in condos. As such, many are adding Video Doorman from American Security Systems, Inc. to their buildings. Not only does it provide most of the services of a doorman, but does so at less than 10% of the cost. Introduced 2 years ago, the system has captured the minds of residential condo developers. Buyers of condos in buildings with 75 or fewer units want the security and convenience provided by a doorman. But 3 shifts of a doorman can cost a building upwards of $150,000 per year, which builds maintenance costs. Video Doorman not only provides most of the functions, but increases the value of the building when it comes to selling. Read the rest of this entry »