610 – Evidence and Property Room Security System Monitoring
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office Evidence and Property Room is located at 601 Lockwood Drive, Houston, Texas 77011. Except on county holidays, it is occupied by assigned personnel and open for business Monday through Friday between 8:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. throughout the year. Whenever unoccupied, the Evidence and Property Room’s security system is fully engaged to notify or alert the designated monitoring entity immediately if any unauthorized access to the facility is attempted or accomplished. Therefore, the assigned monitoring entity must be available 24 hours each day of the year to receive alarm transmissions.
The HCSO has opted to “self-monitor,” meaning the monitoring and dispatch responsibilities are that of a designated HCSO entity rather than a third-party monitoring company. This policy designates the monitoring responsibilities of the Evidence and Property Room’s security system to the HCSO Emergency Dispatch Center (EDC). This policy also establishes specific guidelines for the EDC to follow if the security system is triggered during the course of such monitoring. [CALEA Standards 84.1.2, 84.1.3, and 84.1.4; Communications Standard 6.2.10 (a)]
The HCSO Emergency Dispatch Center shall continuously and remotely monitor the Evidence and Property Room’s security system and initiate and monitor appropriate responses to any triggering of the security system’s alarm devices.
Evidence and Property Room: Refers exclusively to the HCSO primary evidence and property storage facility located at 601 Lockwood Drive, Houston, Texas 77011.
Monitor: The assigned EDC Central radio channel dispatchers who shall react in accordance with this policy if any of the Evidence and Property Room’s security system devices are triggered.
Remote Monitoring: The programmed automated function of the Evidence and Property Room’s security system to transmit a notification or alert to a designated telephone line located within the EDC if any of the system’s devices are triggered; the EDC ability to receive remotely and respond to such transmission.
Remote Video Viewing: The ability of designated HCSO personnel to sign in to a provided IP address on any computer using a confidential password in order to observe the live video images produced by the video cameras installed throughout the Evidence and Property Room.
Security System: The equipment consisting of remotely viewable video cameras, motion sensors, and auditable contact door alarms installed throughout the Evidence and Property Room.
Trigger: Activation of any one or more of the Evidence and Property Room’s security system devices indicating via a remotely-transmitted telephonic notification or alert to the EDC that a breach or possible breach of security at the Evidence and Property Room has occurred.
The HCSO is legally obligated to safeguard hundreds of thousands of multi-jurisdictional pieces of evidence and property within its custody at the Evidence and Property Room on behalf of the courts, multiple law enforcement agencies, and the Harris County citizens. As the designated Evidence and Property Room’s security system monitoring entity, the Emergency Dispatch Center shall establish and maintain the following:
- A designated telephone line answerable at the Central channel dispatch position to which the Evidence and Property Room’s security system has been programmed to transmit automatically all triggered notifications or alerts.
- The designated telephone line shall be reserved exclusively for receiving transmissions of notifications or alerts produced by the Evidence and Property Room’s security system.
- The designated telephone line shall be programmed at all Central channel dispatch positions and clearly marked to ensure there is no confusion regarding its intended purpose.
- A written, quick reference, step-by-step protocol of the three primary actions to be taken in the event a triggered notification or alert is transmitted to the telephone shall be maintained at the Central dispatch position and be clearly labeled: “Evidence and Property Room – Security System Monitoring Protocol.”
- All EDC personnel shall be made generally aware of the existence, purpose, and importance of the designated telephone line and the monitoring protocol of the EDC.
- Upon receipt of any notification or alert, a call slip shall be entered into the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system, and the Central channel radio operator shall immediately dispatch a HCSO Outside Patrol unit to the 601 Lockwood facility to assess the facility’s perimeter thoroughly for any observable indications of a security breach. [Communications Standard 6.2.10 (b)]
A thorough assessment of the Evidence and Property Room’s perimeter includes any possible points of entry both outside and inside the 601 Lockwood building to the extent possible.
In the event there are no Outside Patrol units available to respond to a triggering of the Evidence and Property Room’s security system, either another HCSO patrol or marked unit shall be dispatched. If no HCSO units are available, the call will be referred to Harris County Constable’s Office, Precinct 6, or, if necessary, the Houston Police Department depending upon which is deemed the most expeditious option given the circumstances. If a non-Harris County agency responds, the Central channel radio operator shall obtain that agency’s call slip or incident number and document the information within the CAD call slip.
Immediately notify the on-duty EDC supervisor
The EDC supervisor shall be responsible for ensuring all actions being taken by the Central channel dispatcher are consistent with this policy.
The EDC supervisor shall initiate remote monitoring. [Communications Standard 6.2.10 (b)]
The EDC supervisor shall have readily available the IP address and confidential computer password allowing him or her the ability to observe remotely the live video images produced by the video cameras installed in the Evidence and Property Room.
Supervisors issued the password to access and remotely view the Evidence and Property Room’s cameras will ensure the password remains confidential. Allowing others to view the cameras once signed on is permissible. Providing the password to any person not specifically issued the password by the Evidence and Property Room supervisor is a violation of department policy.
Passwords to access the Evidence and Property Room’s security system video cameras are issued for the purpose of affording real-time observation of the facility’s interior in relation to a triggered security alarm event. Unnecessary, leisurely, or random observation by EDC employees of the remotely-accessed video images within the Evidence and Property Room is not permitted except for the purpose of periodically testing the remote video system.
The EDC supervisor shall document the call slip with the time that the remote cameras were accessed and the status of the interior of the Evidence and Property Room.
Call the on-call Evidence and Property Room security system contact employee (i.e., on-call key holder) listed on a regularly updated and provided Evidence and Property Room call-out list. The Evidence and Property Room shall be responsible for ensuring a current call-out list is made available to the EDC. [CALEA Standard 84.1.2]
If the listed on-call contact employee is unreachable via the phone numbers provided, any one of the other listed contacts on the list shall be called (to include supervisors) until contact can be made.
Upon reaching the Evidence and Property Room security system contact employee:
- Provide a brief overview of the known circumstances to include the time the EDC initially received the transmitted security system alert.
- Obtain the responding contact’s estimated time until arrival (ETA) to the Evidence and Property Room.
- At least one Evidence and Property Room contact employee (key holder) is required by Evidence and Property Room policy to make the scene as quickly as possible following any triggered security system notification or alert.
- The responding Evidence and Property Room contact and his or her informed ETA shall be documented in the CAD call slip.
Continue to monitor all activities underway with regard to the triggered alarm event until a final disposition of the event is conclusive. This will be the case only after the following has been obtained by the Central channel dispatcher:
- The responding dispatched patrol units clear the call as “false” or any other final clearance disposition, and
- The responding on-call Evidence and Property Room contact employee (key holder) has arrived at the Evidence and Property Room, confirmed to the monitor the facility is safe and secure, and has informed the monitor that the security system has been fully re-engaged (i.e., reset and turned on), thereby ready for continued monitoring.
- If the responding patrol units thoroughly check the perimeter and discover no signs of forced entry or other signs indicating a breach of security, the patrol units may clear the call “false” and return to service in advance of the key holder arriving on site ONLY IF the EDC supervisor has been able to view remotely the Evidence and Property Room’s video cameras and reasonably determines there to be no visible interior signs of a security breach, thereby corroborating the patrol unit’s assessment of an apparent “false”alarm.
- If a responding unit determines or believes there is a “true” alarm at the Evidence and Property Room, he or she should follow department policy, patrol procedures, and patrol supervisor directives dictating actions to be taken to ensure officer safety and to confront criminal actors in the process of committing a crime. Deputies shall understand the Evidence and Property Room is a highly-restricted environment where potential significant chain of custody issues should be considered in determining the best law enforcement response. The responding units should, when possible in order to avoid or minimize evidence exposure, take into consideration the below listed responsive strategy:
Set up and secure a perimeter until a responding Evidence and Property Room contact employee (key holder) arrives on scene when:
Signs of potential unlawful entry have been observed, but no suspects have been observed entering, inside, or exiting the facility, and
The EDC supervisor observes no criminal actors via the interior video cameras.
Ultimately, units responding to a “true” alarm at the Evidence and Property Room shall have final discretion, including making entry into the facility (forced or otherwise) in order to take law enforcement action as they, in good faith, deem prudent and necessary given their experience and first-person knowledge of the situation and circumstances.
This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:
July 21, 2011