Fined For Allowing Tailgating

In a friend's building, residents are fined (or at least threatened) if they allow someone to tailgate after them. Many of the residents seemed to be concerned enough that they make a big deal if someone is walking in behind them, demanding to see their security key / card and baring them if they do not show it.

I found it a little bit jarring as it is, minimally, not 'neighborly'.

What do you think about this? Good idea? Any reasonable alternatives?

...residents are fined (or at least threatened) if they allow someone to tailgate after them.

Seems like a major liability for the building to make such a statement, in writing at least. Is there an actual memo? Stand your ground aside, threatening someone with a fine if they don't physically confront a threat, is like training the 7-11 guy to 'not allow' someone into the register if they demand it.

Do they maybe mean no 'piggybacking', where people that know each other are allowing non-cred entry? Otherwise they should not try to stop the gate-crasher (I wouldn't hold the door open either though), and then notify authorities as deemed by building management.

John or Brian, do you know of any 'duress' type of mechanism that allows the person allowing access to signal, thru the way the card is swiped, that someone unauthorized has gained access? You could obviously have two readers, but that would be a bit ridiculuous in most places.

Yes, there is a sign posted in the entrance that says straight out, let people in behind you and you will be fined. They even emphasize that it does not matter if you know them or not, which I found to be especially bizarre.

I didn't think about the liability aspect but there is certainly risk of such neighbor to neighbor enforcement turning into a confrontation.

I found it a little bit jarring as it is, minimally, not 'neighborly'.

This is a major reason why 'Tailgating' is the access control killer.

No one wants to be a jerk, but when access is granted outside the system, what's the point for the system at all?

In lieu of a human doorman, revolving doors, or installing a mantrap, the options are limited. Fines, signs, and training are common, but not always effective. Even the boldest tech companies deal with the problem:

Fines, signs, and training are common...

Common for the tailgater only, right? Not for the guy who overestimates the non-linear discharge rate of a door piston, thereby allowing the classic nonchalant last-second door save?

...revolving doors, or installing a mantrap, the options are limited

Of course it does nothing to restrict access, but in John's example, might it work to install one of those tailgating alarms, with the idea being that it would make 'normal' people stop trying to tailgate because of the stigma of the alarm? And then that would reduce the incidents down to the point where only people that aren't familiar with system would try to tailgate. Residents then naturally would form a tighter seal all on their own. If you think about, why would you let someone(that you don't know) tailgate you in the building, but then not allow them to tailgate the front door of your dwelling? Obviously because you know for a fact that they don't belong there.

Half seriously you could also hook a tailgating alarm to one of those Defender units, to get a photo, flash alarm/siren and GPS of the violation sent to monitoring in real-time. Enable the pepper spray only if all else fails... ;)

Slightly off-topic I haven't seen much on IPVM regarding Access Control RFID's, is there a different word that they are categorized under or do they still not work well enough that anyone is adopting them?

"I haven't seen much on IPVM regarding Access Control RFID's, is there a different word that they are categorized under or do they still not work well enough that anyone is adopting them?"

Do you mean RFID as used for credentialing?

From being in the business for a long time, I can safely say that tailgating IS the biggest problem in the industry. As a security consultant, I am very mindful of the fact that access control is a process.... not a system. It makes no difference if the means to access the door is a key or card reader or fingerprint; if an authorized person lets someone else in, there is a problem.

During assessments, I try to give clients some idea of the extent of the problem, by actually staking outdoors and watching "access behavior". I've done this many times (probably should write a paper on it.... don't think many people study this behavior). I count the number of times I see the behavior and the number of people permitted access on a single authorized entry. The record (are you ready?).... is 63. Yes, 63 people on a single card read which occurred during the noon hour in a university res hall. Lack of policy, lack of enforcement, lack of buy-in and a major flaw in the building design (a central campus food service was located in the same building) were all seen as problems.

Now this problem can be addressed by "positive access controls" such as turnstiles, interlocked doors and revolvers with tailgate/piggybacking sensors, but the cost is significant (i.e. $30-40K per lane for optical turnstiles, $60-$100K per door for revolvers) and though proper design of the access scheme; but if you don't do something at other doors into the protected space as well, you may be wasting money. In a large building, to implement such controls and do it right, you could easily be talking about $500K or even $1M. So, I am very clear to my clients as to what these systems can offer.... lowering expectations if you will.

One place where I am seeing positive change, is in the K-12 schools. Teachers and the younger students are being convinced that letting someone in could be dangerous (the signs help as well). And the practice is tested (i.e. having a "stranger" employed by the security department attempt to get someone to let them in) in many schools. I don't think the same thing can be said for high school students however, who tend to be a bit more difficult to control and dictate policy to.

I would love to know how effective the fine process is working. I have seen fines used in colleges and universities, but its really difficult to judge whether or not the practice is effective (i.e. Does the practice actually prevent crime). I would also like to know how long the fine policy has been in effect.

Jim, great feedback!

I suspect buy-in to the policy is impacted by perception of risk. With the prominent public history of school violence, it is likely easier to understand / motivate / enforce it in US schools these days.

To your question about how the fine process is working, my friend says at their complex, only the senior citizens regularly enforce it, but there are a number of them and they are evidently quite vigilant about it. He didn't know how long the policy has been in place there.

Jim, what kind of money are we talking about for fines? Is it usually assessed/collected or just a bluff? And have you seen fines levied both on the door opener and on the tailgater?

If so then maybe $100,000 isn't so much, especially on record setting tailgating days! Since assuming $10 ticket, 62*10=620 (enabler violations) + 62*10=620 (tailgator violations) = $1240, which is the total dollars recieved for one door on one day.(SI UOM = Dollars per DoorDay) ;)

One other video related element, evidently they tell residents that they are being recorded at entrances and that the video will be used to prove that they allowed others to trespass and justify the fine.

From the one entrance I observed, the camera was fairly far away (50+ feet), old, analog and fixed focal length so I suspect that' more bluff than actual practice.

Many years ago I did an installation at an airport. The FAA fine was $10,000.00 personally if you were caught allowing a tailgate, tailgating or leaving a dor/gate open. I spoke to someone who recently did this at that same airport. He paid the new $15,000.00 personal fine.

Even with harsh penalties it still happens.

I guess they could install a small man-trap that would prevent this, but the homeowners would then be up in arms over the inconvenience.

I also did systems in a very wealthy closed community. The kind where the houses ran in the several millions in a golf community, artwork was also in the millions and many would just use it a few weeks out of the year. They had a big crime spree and ultimately it was determined that homeowners were picking handyman phone numbers off a wall and allowing them access without supervision. While working they would go into the backyards of neighboring homes. Similar to this multi-tenant situation.

Maybe the Borg (Star Trek) had it right and we just need to be assimilated for our own good.

Greg, good feedback and the airport obviously makes sense.

The other case you bring up is interesting:

"They had a big crime spree and ultimately it was determined that homeowners were picking handyman phone numbers off a wall and allowing them access without supervision."

So is there a rule that all contractors need to be escorted and observed by homeowners at all times? Otherwise, what can you do? You have to let them in to do work so they are legitimately authorized to be inside, right?

From what you’ve framed up, the property owners saw fit to install an access control system, presumably for the security of their tenants and maybe also to mitigate their exposure to liability. Many of the tenants reportedly take proper use of the access control seriously, which makes me think they may have had some experiences there that have demonstrated the risks that come with tailgating. I suppose one could find a “neighborly” way to verify that an unauthorized user has a legitimate reason for access, but in general I land on the side of enforcement.

John....they had enough money to hire licensed and bonded contractors which would have helped. Instead these multi-millionaires used unlicensed workers and gave them a free access pass. Either someone should have been home to watch them or they should have notified the patrolling security.

It is good to see so much interest in this security issue. Managing human behavior is probably one of the most difficult tasks in security. Jim’s words above gives us an insight to the magnitude of the problem. In the commercial world, you can address this behavior with regular staff training, but don’t expect full compliance, unless you are willing to set $15,000 fines. In residential settings, you can preach to the residents, but don’t expect significant success. When you make policies that are unrealistic and unenforceable, expect insignificant compliance.

One of the tools I like is piggyback detection at the door. The devices are not foolproof, and will have some false alarms, but, they are inexpensive, easy to install, and most importantly, they condition people to recognize the importance of discouraging tailgating and give them a good excuse to subdue their neighborly intentions, and substitute them with security conscious practices.

Hello Rob:

Would you elaborate on the 'piggyback detector' you use? Thanks!

Making unenforceable rules is always a bad idea. All it does is train users to not follow rules.

A sign simply explaining why tailgating can be dangerous, and letting users draw their own conclusions, would probably be a lot more effective.

... they make a big deal if someone is walking in behind them, demanding to see their security key / card and baring them if they do not show it.

Here is my 'neighborly' advice for your friend, designed to ease fob tension and at the same time improve resident compliance and attitude.

Assess: When approaching an access point, assess anyone who's space-time seems likely to converge with yours before the door would close.

Confess: If you assess the possible interloper intentions as benign, simply confess to having difficulty in retrieving your own fob.

Impress: If the alleged resident produces his own fob and then offers the door for you, impress your neighbor by declining their offer, then say you found your fob.

Address: If the resident insists, use it as a way to address your neighbor and explain the tailgate policy.

ACIA is only half of the applicable Glen Garry quote, the other half being the access control mantra of ABC, or:

Always Be Closing...


There are a couple of manufacturers that make anti-tailgating technology for the door frame. The one I have experience with is the Entry Sentry by DSI. They work much like optical turnstiles with beams of light and a computer algorithm that can discriminate between one person walking through a doorway, and more than one person. They can even ignore a person carrying a briefcase. They have an MSRP, I believe, of around $3,500. They work best for low throughput doors. They won’t stop a tailgate infraction, but will trigger an alarm, and signal a VMS. They work best on honest people, but a security enlightened, honest person can report a suspicious tailgating incident. The important addition to the device is users trained in why tailgating is a significant security breach.

Rob, thanks for sharing. It strikes me that this product is more for a corporate environment where the expectation is every single person individually checks in. In a residential environment, this would alert / trigger if a person let their spouse / family in, right? It would seem this would be a nuisance and against the broader objective of antitailgating in a residential area. Yes / no?


I have not used this product in residential applications for the reasons you cite. Tailgating is not as big a factor in residential, as it is in the commercial world, with higher throughputs and where people with malicious intent can better blend in to the crowd. However, in residential applications that really need this level of security, you probably need to look at a guard force to augment your security technology. I view anti-tailgate technology as more of a ongoing training tool to augment security policys and procedures.