Erwin Ballarta has spent nearly every waking moment of the past 36 years thinking about how best to protect people. He’s done it as a police officer, a state trooper, and as a lieutenant with the Texas Department of Public Safety, where he trained thousands of other law enforcement officers in security procedures. He has served on the security details of Texas governors, entertainers, athletes and foreign politicians. And now Ballarta is protecting the residents of Spanish Oaks, as the founder of the team that guards the community, Armatek USA Security Group, Inc.
From its inception, Spanish Oaks has focused on providing the best-of-the-best for its luxury home buyers. Security is no exception.
One of the first things Ballarta did at Spanish Oaks was bring in a team of Special Forces veterans to study the community and identify potential security weaknesses. Now, he’s working to implement many of their recommendations.
Both entrances to Spanish Oaks have manned gatehouses, staffed 24 hours a day by trained security personnel selected by Ballarta. All have either law enforcement or military experience, or bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice. And all have received additional training from Ballarta and the Bee Cave police department. “We’re investing in our people,” he says. “Our focus is on retention and training.”
Strategically located cameras provide a second layer of protection at Spanish Oaks. Say someone tries to skirt the gatehouse security by driving in through an exit lane. The cameras pick up the vehicle and its license number, and the vehicle is quickly identified and tracked down.
Ballarta keeps his eye on what’s going on outside of Spanish Oaks, as well. He studies area crime statistics looking for trends in criminal activity that his Armatek team should watch out for. For instance, he noticed increasing numbers of home break-ins in Austin while the owners were away on vacation. The culprits in many cases were associated with or tipped off by housekeeping, lawn or other regularly scheduled services that knew when the homeowners would be gone.
At Spanish Oaks, Ballarta’s Armatek guards regularly check the homes of residents who are away. And they’re thorough. Recently, they discovered a door left unlocked by the home owner’s dog sitter. They immediately contacted the owner.
Sometimes tight security can be inconvenient for residents. Ballarta is attuned to that, too. Hundreds of contractors pass through the gates of Spanish Oaks daily to build homes and provide resident services. In the past, that occasionally caused long traffic back-ups as the guards at the gatehouses verified that each contractor was coming in for a legitimate reason. Ballarta came up with a solution: temporary contractor passes, issued after the contractors provide their drivers’ licenses, proof of insurance and other pertinent information. Contractors with the temporary passes are quickly waved through and traffic back-ups have been substantially reduced.
Lately, he’s been thinking about what happens when Spanish Oaks residents throw big parties – a not-uncommon occurrence. Residents usually provide guest lists to Ballarta’s security team. But checking the names of people arriving at the gates against the guest lists takes time and sometimes causes traffic back-ups.
Ballarta poses a question: What if Spanish Oaks residents were provided QR codes they could attach to their emailed party invitations? Then the invited guests could flash the QR codes at the gates to gain immediate entry.
It’s just an idea at this point, he says. But it’s the kind of thing Ballarta thinks about every day in his continuous quest to serve and protect the residents of Spanish Oaks.