Here we are in the newly revamped courtyard between Three Allen Center, Two Allen Center, and the building just renamed from One Allen Center to Motiva Plaza. (The new courtyard plaza itself has been given a new name as well: The Acre.) And what have we here? It appears to be a Swamplot reader, snapping a photo, probably to send to the site. Our report: automatically altered course to pass by and avert collision; continued crime detection through infrared and video feed, facial scans; added new license plates to database.
But in that photo, of course, now published above: the same scene, as viewed from the opposite side, with a little less data to accompany. Just showing the new 5-ft.-3-in.-tall Knightscope K5 Autonomous Data Machine, out on security patrol, Downtown.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
The Bots of Allen Center
DEEP INSIDE THE BOOMING MARKET FOR HOUSTON HUNKER BUNKERS AND PANIC ROOMS The Houston area is Atlas Survival Shelters’ best market in the U.S., the California company’s owner tells Houstonia‘s Peter Holley. But who buys the sort of underground bunkers outfitted with a mud room, bunk beds, a kitchen, and a separate escape hatch Atlas markets? That’s a secret, because bunker buyers don’t like to talk about what they’re prepping, and often mask their identities from the security-hawking companies themselves.Â Holley figures out the contours of the survivalist boom, though: “For several years Houston has been in the throes of a frenzy of domicile defense, with many homeowners throughout the region spending five figures or more to turn their suburban abodes into veritable fortresses, employing elaborate and perhaps dangerous methods in the process. Meanwhile, for companies that sell panic rooms, freeze-dried food, weapons, secret passageways, safes, spy equipment, and booby traps, business is booming, especially in and around the Bayou City.”
A bit cheaper than a dedicated 10-ft.-by-40-ft. underground shelter-in-a-pipe is the $20,000 Fort Knox vault room (a version of which is pictured above on a new-construction site), “a Porta-Pottyâ€“size walk-in vault that has been in high demand for several years, especially in Houston, according to Safes R Us owner Eric Bristol, whose store is located off the East Freeway,” Holley writes. “He noted that a single room weighs 20,000 pounds and is encased in harder concrete than the type used to construct highways. Walk inside, swing the 1,300-pound door shut, and you might find that feelings of impenetrability are hard to separate from feelings of panic.
‘My daughter canâ€™t be in here more than a few seconds before feeling claustrophobic,’ Bristol said, pulling a lever and sealing the tiny room during a visit to the Safes R Us showroom. ‘But Iâ€™ve sold hundreds of these things over the last few years because people are worried about rising crime, and they know that youâ€™d need a tank to break open one of these babies.'” [Houstonia] Photo: Safes R Us
A sharp-eyed reader has spotted what appear to be security cameras popping up on traffic signals at intersections in Midtown over the last couple of weeks. “I assume this is an extension of the downtown camera system that was announced in December,” notes the camera-watcher, who submitted these uh, surveillance photos of the installations at Gray and Bagby (top) and Webster and Bagby in front of the Capital One bank branch (above right). “They appear to be spreading south. Currently I see them on Gray and Webster. The intersections at Bagby got 2 cameras each. Microwave backhaul antennas are visible in the photos.”
Photos: Swamplot inbox
It’s Springtime for Surveillance
A new green-screened construction fence has gone up around the perimeter of the Central Square Plaza building at 2100 Travis St., a reader reports. But the barricades aren’t an indication of impending renovation or demolition work on the long-vacant property. They’re part of an effort to secure the buildings and keep taggers and other would-be occupiers out.
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: IN THE HEIGHTS, GOOD FENCES MAKE GOOD PEDESTRIANS “Front yard fences in the Heights are to keep people from walking through your yard. Many streets do not have sidewalks, and some pedestrians donâ€™t understand that the edge of the yard is where you are supposed to walk. We donâ€™t have a front yard fence due to the city easement, and people have come up almost to the front door going through the yard. It is a little unsettling.” [Janice, commenting on One in a Row Behind the Orange Show]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT A GATE GETS YOU “I can tell you why I have a gate. Itâ€™s not to keep out someone that REALLY wants to get in (as I can hop over in about 5 seconds if needed). Itâ€™s to keep randoms from coming up and knocking on my door.
I work from home a lot and hate when I get a knock on the door during the day (or at night when Iâ€™m spending time with my wife) only to go to the door and find some pandhandler ‘fundraising’ for a trip or other nonsense.
And while I donâ€™t subscribe to the fact they’re a big problem, I have heard warnings that people come by, knock on the door for a ‘legit’ reason, and if no one answers they target the property to break in. A gate will keep most of these fishing expeditions out.
So a gate isnâ€™t going to keep someone out thatâ€™s committed themselves to getting in, but itâ€™ll be a deterrent to the passers by that want to bother you.
Other reasons? I park my car inside the gated area (yet still outside) so I add some security there. I have furniture on my patio that is much more secure due to the gate. I have a daughter thatâ€™ll soon play outside and I like the idea of her not being able to run out to the street. If I had a dog I could let them run around without bothering anyone walking by or running into the street.
There are several legit reasons for a gate. The least of which is a means to make your house impossible to access.” [Cody, commenting on A Preview of a $110K Modest Mod]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT’S IN THAT WONTON? “. . . The gates these days on apartment complexes are an elaborate way to keep the Chinese restaurant menus off the door handles. However, the Chinese restaurants are getting more crafty, employing some Ninja tactics and Trojan Horse ploys. The war goes on.” [commonsense, commenting on Hanover Reaping More Rice Village Property, Garden Gate Shutting]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: INSTALLING THE SAGO PALM HOME SECURITY SYSTEM “But I guarantee that a burglar will bypass your house if you have the palms near windows. They do not want to get stuck anymore than you do.
Granted, it will be more difficult to clean the windows, but Iâ€™ll take that any day.” [PYEWACKET2, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Against Law]
The man seen above crawling back onto the back porch of a North Montrose bungalow with a pillowcase full of electronics and jewelry in hand is 29-year-old Steven Groucho Hicks, the Houston Police Dept. now believes. According to a KHOU report, Hicks was arrested yesterday and charged with burglarizing the home by crawling through its doggie door. An extensive gallery of photos documenting the burglary was posted to Flickr last month, retrieved from a surveillance camera the homeowner had installed after learning of similar episodes in the neighborhood.
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Note: Two updates below.
A North Montrose family found itself enriched Wednesday by a treasure trove of photos showing the burglar who had been stalking their back porch — and impoverished by the iPad, camera, and jewelry the man nabbed from his home, stuffed into a pillowcase. The surveillance pics gathered from the incident near West Gray and Montrose Blvd. are now on display in this Flickr account. They show remarkably clear images of the neighborhood’s new doggie-door burglar — nicknamed “the Ghost” because no one had caught a glimpse of him during similar incident last week — pacing back and forth in the back yard, talking on a mobile phone to an accomplice who was apparently acting as a lookout. The culprit “spent 10 minutes casing the back yard and 4 minutes inside the house,” the victim tells Swamplot.
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When you use the city’s brand-new pay-by-phone parking setup to pay for a metered space — introduced by the mayor this morning — what are you giving up? Well, an extra 35 cents to the system’s vendor, Parkmobile, beyond the parking fee. Plus you’re telling city officials — and parking enforcement officers — where your car is parked, its license plate number, and a good way to reach you. But city Admin & Regulatory Affairs spokesperson Chris Newport tells Swamplot that’s all: “No credit card or email information will be accessed. We retain the plate/phone number parking transaction history to allow us to verify someone paid for parking in the event of a complaint regarding a citation that may have been issued in error.”
What if you’ve got a few outstanding tickets?
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HIGH SECURITY IN BELLAIRE Yvonne Stern’s home on S. 3rd St. in Bellaire is now equipped with iron gates, floodlights, surveillance cameras, and bulletproof glass; there’s also an armored SUV currently being prepared for her use. Earlier, she had hired off-duty Houston police officers to live in the house around the clock. Still, earlier this week Stern told the jury deciding the fate of a man hired to kill her that she and her 2 children do not feel safe in the home; she would like to move but can’t. Nhut Nguyen was sentenced this morning to 45 years in prison for shooting at Stern and her son through the home’s front door on April 15th. No one was injured in that incident, but a different assailant shot Stern in the stomach a month later as she sat in her car in the parking garage of the Meritage Apartments at the corner of North Braeswood and Meyer Park Dr. — where Stern and her family were staying while their home was being retrofitted with all those security measures. Now back living with her in that home, which she described to the court as “Fort Knox”: her husband, attorney Jeffrey Stern — who along with his former employee and mistress, Michelle Gaiser, is facing trial for soliciting several would-be hit men to kill his wife. Despite prosecutors’ claims, Yvonne Stern says she believes her husband had nothing to do with the murder plots. [Houston Chronicle; more details]