San Francisco Passport Center transaction window modern bulletproof glass

Ballistic Barriers Reduce Barriers to Citizen Engagement

Municipal Buildings

San Francisco Passport CenterCity managers, administrators, and clerks face many challenges, especially when it comes to balancing availability and security.  On the one hand, most agree with Mathieu Lefevre, former executive director of the New Cities Foundation, that it’s “time to put the human back into the center of our dialogue about cities and urbanization.” On the other hand, even as we seek to increase citizen engagement and government transparency, the day-to-day realities in many locales demand enhanced security.  It’s hard to square “dissolving barriers between citizens and government” with installing a bullet proof barrier system.

But as it turns out, in many situations a well-designed bullet resistant security system removes barriers between citizens and government, making it easier to increase public engagement and the face-to-face availability of city personnel.

Ballistic Barriers Don’t Have to Pose Barriers to Citizen Engagement

Total Security Solutions CEO Jim Richards has found that many city managers and civil engineers have limited experience with quality bullet resistant barrier design, fabrication, and installation.  As a result, their ideas of what can be done are sharply limited by what they see at 24-hour gas stations or urban-core liquor stores.

“Those are very old-line, low-budget solutions,” Jim notes. “They really don’t take advantage of any of the material, design, and manufacturing advancements we’ve made over recent years.”

Modern bullet resistant security systems in professional environments have largely done away with the dingy old liquor store bullet proof glass, with its steel talking-holes, squawking intercoms, and muffled sound.  Modern systems are  bright and custom fitted to your facility and daily work needs, blending into the building and environment.

One recent Total Security Solutions client—the Health Plan of San Joaquin, in Modesto, California—shares space with Modesto’s city and county offices.  This makes for a unique threat portfolio. It means that both buildings should be prepared not only for scenarios arising from their own overstressed clientele, but also from being part of the public face of local government in tumultuous times.

Even taking all of that into account, the Health Plan of San Joaquin was still sharply focused on maintaining accessibility and keeping interactions between staff and visitors easy, efficient, and natural—all while increasing security.

According to Health Plan of San Joaquin Facilities Coordinator Gina Mims, the resulting system Total Security Solutions designed and installed met and exceeded these goals:

“It looks great. …  I love the fact that each of [the counter staff] have a talking hole, but it doesn’t look like the old school with that metal plate.  It all looks very nice.  Our buildings are very modern, so I wanted to make sure that they stayed along the line. Staff have said they feel much safer.  In Modesto, our entire staff [were relieved] because, again, the way it was set up, anybody literally could have jumped over the counter.”

Using Ballistic Barriers to Increase Availability of Services

In late 2014 the community of Crestview, Florida completed renovations of the Whitehurst Municipal Building, which houses the Crestview Police Department (among other government functions), adding a bullet resistant barrier system.  Previously the only after-hours access the public had to Crestview PD was through an exterior PA system mounted outside locked doors.  Following the renovation, citizens could speak with police face-to-face around the clock, entering a 24/7 open reception area where they had direct access to an officer protected by a bulletproof barrier system.

Crestview Police Chief Tony Taylor characterized this physical renovation as central to the “cultural and physical transformation” of the department, further noting: “No longer will a physical barrier exist between the police department and the community.  No longer will we close our doors at 5 o’clock every evening and on weekends.  No longer will you feel isolated from your police department.”

Total Security Solutions CEO Jim Richards notes, “It’s pretty common for us to see this sort of ‘expanded hour’ situation—often as a byproduct of increasing security for their staff.  Once the barrier is in place and they see how smoothly it operates, and have that increase in morale and confidence, expanded hours and more direct interaction with the public is a pretty natural next step.”

Next Steps:

Make or Break Project