Belatedly, Beverly Hills Ups Security at Nessah Synagogue

Beverly Hills Nessah Synagogue
Beverly Hills Nessah Synagogue

City makes protecting religious institutions a priority after Robin Rowe speaks out

BEVERLY HILLS, CA ( 2020/2/2 – Residents may have noticed last week that city workmen were installing new security cameras to protect Nessah. The synagogue and other nearby buildings had been vandalized on December 14th, 2019, a crime that shocked local residents.

“Beverly Hills Police Increase Vigilance After Hate Crimes,” reported the Beverly Hills Courier on January 2nd, 2020. That article quotes police chief Sandra Spagnoli, “The Beverly Hills Police Department has directed significant resources to enhancing security at all of our religious institutions and schools….that your safety and security remain our highest priority.”

Being of highest priority, why did it take another month to install city CCTV security cameras? That’s an interesting story…

Until I briefed our police chief last week, she didn’t know the city’s advanced security system installed last year has the AI capability to alert her department to crimes in progress.

Using the AI technology the city has to detect crimes, the Beverly Hills police could have been on the scene in a few minutes. Could have prevented the vandalism of Nessah. Nobody at the police department was monitoring it. The police department didn’t know they had the capability.

Beverly Hills has operational a 1,300-camera CCTV security system with AI computer vision. It has such advanced AI capability that it can deconstruct events happening on camera, can detect crimes in progress. Like a lobby security guard scanning a set of CCTV monitors, the AI software can alert the police when suspicious activity occurs. Can send the police a picture.

AI security technology has been in development a long time. In the 1990s, as a defense contractor, I was a project manager for DARPA, the research arm of the Department of Defense. DARPA has a program to develop AI computer vision for security applications. I’ve been monitoring its progress for 20 years.

I have vastly more experience in national defense and advanced technology than the typical City Council member. How would the incumbents even know to brief our police chief on AI?

After the Nessah break-in, it wasn’t until 7am the next day that the call to police came. By that time, the trail was cold. It took a lot of police time, expensive investigation, and the extradition of the suspect from Hawaii to make an arrest. Expenses that could have been avoided by capturing a suspect in the act.

As a candidate for Beverly Hills City Council, I recently received a 10-minute, in-person briefing from each of a dozen city department heads. Although I’ve been on the Beverly Hills Technology Committee for four years, this was my first opportunity to sit down with our police chief.

During our meeting, which was to brief me, I got to brief our police chief on the security capabilities the city has with AI computer vision. The next day, city workmen were out installing security cameras in front of Nessah.

Previously, the city had been more diligent protecting its parking garages than its religious institutions. It’s a relief that priority is changing.

The two City Council incumbents running for reelection against me in March failed to protect Nessah. Has either apologized for this lapse?

One incumbent said during her kick-off house party speech that she deserves to be reelected because she cares so much about Nessah. She often introduces herself by saying she’s the child of two Holocaust survivors. The other incumbent has been lauded as the Beverly Hills Jewish mayor. Nobody would challenge that the incumbents care about the synagogue. Are they good at protecting it?

After my conversation with the chief of police, the synagogue and all the other religious institutions in Beverly Hills got a security upgrade. They now get the protection they should have had last year. I didn’t push for that change out of piety.

I believe the city has a duty to protect its religious institutions of all faiths. I have experience building security technology for the Pentagon and within our national critical infrastructure. I get it how national security works.

For voters in March, who will they choose? The most religious candidate or the one who understands and is driving best practices in national security? A choice between who will give the most impassioned speech after something bad happens and who will do the most to prevent that speech ever being necessary.

It’s for the voters to decide.

I’m Robin Rowe, a candidate running for Beverly City Council. I don’t accept contributions from developers or from anyone. I don’t do paid political advertising. I don’t plaster everybody’s yards with “free” yard signs paid for by special interests. I’m #1 on the ballot in the March 3rd, 2020, election. See you there.