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First Surveillance uses light and sound to keep criminals guessing

Different properties come with different security risks. Properties with long perimeters and large areas that are sometimes in out of the way locations and are often unprotected by a fence, with millions of dollars of assets in plain view, have different security challenges than buildings with four walls, a roof and doors that lock.


November 2, 2010
By Peter Caulfield

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Edmonton-based systems integrator First Surveillance specializes in securing large outdoor properties, such as construction sites, gas plant fabrication yards and vehicle dealerships. First Surveillance president Dick Shuhany says defending such properties can be tricky.

“There are a great many potential alarm triggers,” Shuhany says. “At the same time, you need to make sure your system doesn’t intrude into surrounding areas, especially if your property is in a built-up area and you have lots of neighbours.”

First Surveillance secures a half-dozen car dealerships in and around Edmonton.

“They’re the most challenging,” Shuhany says. “You want to encourage legitimate customers to browse, but you also need to discourage those people who come to the lot with evil intent.”

First Surveillance specializes in real-time digital video surveillance.

“Digital video cameras cover thousands of square feet accurately and cost-effectively,” Shuhany says. “Used in combination with motion detectors and analytics, they’re a better option than passive infrared sensor camera systems for securing large outdoor properties.”

Shuhany says First Surveillance uses a number of techniques to discourage vandalism and theft – most of which he won’t reveal. Two that he will talk about make creative use of sound and light.

“A voice-down system, with outdoor speakers that are placed high above ground and that can be activated by the monitoring station, lets people who are on a car lot at midnight know that they are being monitored,” Shuhany says. “Another good option is lights, especially strobe lights. They can be activated by the monitoring station if the operator believes the property is being threatened.”

Monitoring of First Surveillance’s customers is provided by DarkAngel Security Inc., which is located in St. Albert, Alta., just outside of Edmonton. The company specializes in security systems and monitoring for the same types of customers as First Surveillance – vehicle dealerships, construction and energy.

DarkAngel CEO Luke Fevin, who has more than 20 years experience in security and technology in the U.K., Australia and Canada, started the company in 2008.


Fevin met Shuhany and his partner Terry Jenkins through mutual industry contacts.

“They were dissatisfied with the company that had been doing its monitoring and were looking for somebody else,” he says.

Fevin says car dealerships are DarkAngel’s specialty. He says a dealership’s location determines in part the types of security risks it has.

“For dealerships downtown, where there are more young people and more pedestrians and vehicles passing by, there’s a greater risk of spontaneous vandalism and break-ins,” Fevin says. “Car lots on the outskirts, on the other hand, are more likely to be targets of planned crime. If someone is on a car lot on the edge of town at two o’clock in the morning, they’re there for a reason and it probably isn’t a legal one.”

Fevin says older, career criminals tend to be attracted to dealerships on the outskirts, where they are looking for car parts with re-sale potential, such as wheel rims and tailgates.

Fevin’s advice to car dealerships – and to the security integrators who provide products and services to them – is to undertake a CPTED assessment and to take the results seriously.

Fevin says it is important to limit access to your property by blocking and controlling the flow of traffic around it.
“You need to control the flow of traffic around the lot,” he says. “Set up natural pathways and corridors for pedestrians and vehicles and put them in visible areas on your property. And break your lot into different areas and discuss with your service provider and monitoring station the different scenarios and the kinds of responses they can realistically provide.”

Fevin practices what he calls “the psychology of psychosis.”

We try to mess with the minds of the bad guys before they commit a crime,” he says. “For example, alarms don’t scare seasoned criminals, because they’re cyclical and therefore predictable. Where possible, we like to be able to control the lights so we can unbalance a criminal by turning them on and off. And voice-downs are essential. What you want to do is to let them know they’re being watched and to keep them off balance.”

Edmonton-based Calmont Leasing (vehicles of all sizes) is a customer of First Surveillance and DarkAngel. Calmont vice president of operations Lawrence Pudlowski says the area under surveillance is four acres in area with a 15,000-square-foot building in the centre of the property and parking and display areas around the building 
“Our security challenges are primarily after hours and on weekends,” Pudlowski says. “The system we installed has curtailed our loss to a very small amount . It was worth the expenditure.”


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