Palm Bay: Lights! Errrrr…..Cameras? Ummmm…..Action?

There has been much consternation in several forums over the security cameras at facilities owned by the City of Palm Bay. We were asked by several people to look into it as people were concerned that there was some unsavory activity going on. As always, we have tried to document everything that we can so you can make up your own mind.

First, some background.

In May of 2016, the City of Palm Bay put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the maintenance and repair of photographic, access, security, and fire systems. The contract does not call for preventative maintenance.

A Melbourne company named SecurPoint won the bid and was awarded the contract in August of 2016. The contract was renewed in July, 2017 and is set to expire in August of this year.

Under the terms of the contract, Securpoint is required to respond to issues with the systems within two days. (Two hours in an emergency.) The contract specifies hourly rates of labor (both standard and overtime) as well as an upcharge for the price of equipment (cost + 1%.) The terms of the contract means that if SecurPoint is not doing work, they don’t get paid. This is not a yearly contract where the City is paying them “X” number of dollars per year. This is a per incident contract.

There are two incidents of concern floating around out there and we want to address both of them.

The first incident took place in November 2017 as evidenced by this email chain within the City government itself:

This incident highlights a problem with security cameras in general. If the monitoring screen is showing a picture, people assume that the information is being recorded and saved. That’s not the case. The information can be appearing on the monitoring screens while a hard drive whose job is record the data is as dead as door nail.

Once the dead hard drive was discovered, it was swapped out with a new one and life went on. The swapping of the hard drive was done by the City’s Computer Information Technology department (CIT) as they are the ones that handle hard drives and not SecurPoint. In fact, for the month of Novemeber 2017, SecurPoint only submitted three (3) invoices to the City, all of which deal with fire systems and access point issues. Not a single computer or hard drive can be found in any SecurPoint billing for fiscal 2018.

(To be fair, SecurPoint actually only submitted 2 invoices in November. One invoice from August seems to have been misplaced or not sent and was not received and entered into the Palm Bay accounting system until November. We are including that August invoice in our count as it was posted in November.)

The second incident is one that has raised all sorts of questions.

On February 14, 2018 there was an incident outside of the City Hall Annex between a citizen and a City Code Enforcement officer. The incident resulted in the arrest of the citizen and, in our opinion, the overcharging of that individual by the Palm Bay Police.

Our opinion notwithstanding, people requested the video of the incident as surely the cameras would have recorded it.

The City claimed that the DVR that was recording that area was broken and needed to be replaced. People were and are skeptical of that claim.

We have heard it time and time again that the City had the video and is hiding it.

We have heard claims that the cameras were deliberately turned off for that area.

Those theories and sentiments are belied by the fact that on February 16, two days after the incident, SecurPoint brought out and installed a brand spanking new DVR for that area.

Here’s the invoice:

And here is where the City paid the invoice:

To us, the theory that the City deliberately did something wrong here doesn’t make a great deal of sense. The number of employees involved within the Palm Bay Staff would have to be fairly large and that doesn’t include the technicians at SecurPoint who came out and repaired the Annex camera system.

According to the invoices and billing, SecurPoint has received $18,304.15 from doing business with the City this fiscal year. Of that, $10,429.88 is for parts and hard goods on which SecurPoint makes 1%. The remaining $8,000.00 or so is for quarterly monitoring of the alarms (similar to the monthly fee people pay home security firms to monitor their alarm system) and labor. SecurPoint has contracts with lots of other cities and municipalities and it makes no sense to for them to throw their reputation away on that measly amount.

No, we are far more inclined to believe that this is a case of “Hanlon’s Razor.”

Hanlon’s Razor” is a derivative of Occam’s Razor and states:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

(Okay, stupidity is a little harsh,” but we didn’t write it.)

These two problems we have discussed relatively small when you consider the number of hours in a day and the amount of people going in and out of City facilities.

Yet it is two too many.

There are other people who claim that there are other security camera systems that are down and in need of repair and or replacement.

The City needs to conduct and inspection of all systems and get the system back up to 100%. Not only would this benefit the City, but it would also put aside concerns of citizens including the one that tax dollars paid for a massive security system that isn’t being maintained.

Programs and procedures then need to be put into place which lessen the chance of a system being down when an incident occurs. If that means installing every hard drive with monitoring software which show the health of the hard drive, do it. If that means assigning someone whose desk or cubical is near the cameras and recording equipment to make sure the equipment is functioning every day they are there, then that needs to happen.

The City cannot afford on any level not to have camera systems that can record incidents where employees and or citizens were or may be involved.

We honestly don’t think anything nefarious is going on here. Maybe some people do because of their experiences with the City and we understand that.

At some point in time, we have to realize that not everything is a conspiracy. Not everything is a plot. We can’t continue to make the logical fallacy of saying how stupid certain people are and yet claim they have pulled the wool over the eyes of the people in a scheme that would be the envy of Lex Luthor.

Do maintenance and preventative maintenance on the photographic security systems, put in systems and procedures that will insure that the system is working to the best of its ability, and move forward.

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