Making cities secure and citizens safe

There is little doubt, with the complexity of modern cities that there is the potential for the unexpected to happen at any time, as recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Ottawa and Sydney, illustrate all too starkly. Alongside this the widespread public disorder associated with the London riots, and the events that took place in Baltimore, Maryland, last month flag-up just how quickly situations can, and do, escalate in a social media savvy world where large numbers of individuals may be drawn onto our city streets in a relatively short space of time. Beyond these headline‑grabbing situations which, seemingly, appear ‘out of the blue’, cities are also the location of choice for planned events like the Olympics, protest marches, and music festivals where those taking part, and the wider community, need to be kept safe and secure.

Virtual Threat
Of course, it is not just physical disruption which cities should have on their radar. There is also the whole cyber security aspect which, increasingly, has to be factored in to any safe cities equation.
Mike O’Neill, chairman of the BSIA’s Specialist Services Section, is keen to discuss some of the risks that can emerge as the operation of cities, including their transport infrastructure, becomes ever smarter and more centralised. He said: “The key challenge that strikes me is that with the drive for connectivity, and interconnectivity, comes a lot more vulnerability.
“This could be hackers from their bedrooms for fun, terrorist groups, or government actors and their proxies who may be seeking to cause asymmetric confusion. If you think about a city, that has interconnectivity, the vulnerability is huge so that is one of the things I think that we need to be much more aware of moving forward.”

Joined-up Thinking
For his part, Geoff Zeidler, the Police and Security Group Initiative (PaS) Lead on behalf of the BSIA, feels that collaboration between the police and the private security industry is a pivotal element in making cities safer. As part of the Safe Cities Academy at IFSEC International he will be outlining how, in this context, best practice is being developed across London.

Police and industry partnerships have become much more prevalent in the past few years. Project Griffin was the first significant engagement between the police and the private security sector with a focus on training; and more recently national celebrations such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games created unprecedented demand for collaboration. This was a catalyst for the Cross-Sector Safety and Communications (CSSC) project, designed to cascade important information relating to security to partners; which was then developed as a legacy project and replicated in Scotland for last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Putting the PaS Initiative into context, Zeidler reveals that it was first considered by the BSIA and Metropolitan Police after the Olympics, but found new impetus as a result of the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) Business Crime Strategy. PaS is focused on finding ways to build effective collaboration, starting in London, but also aims to ensure consistency across the UK.
Zeidler said: “We launched a consultation to identify what all the ‘capability’ participants see as the enablers and barriers to success and this generated an excellent response, the detailed results of which we are about to release.  The other steps were to map existing local and national collaboration projects to improve coordination and identify best practice; and then to develop of a ‘roadmap’ that establishes what success looks like and the steps needed to achieve this.”

Safer Searches
Dirk Wilson, vice chair of the BSIA’s Police and Public Services Section, is planning to offer his thoughts at IFSEC on how to support safe cities and major events in the context of security searches. This is especially pertinent at the moment as the BSIA has just developed a new Code of Practice for Security Searches. This landmark document sets out welcome guidance on the searching of individuals, areas, buildings, vehicles, and with dogs.
Wilson will be exploring the wider lessons that came out of the Olympic Games search procedures; the importance of having a standard for personnel carrying out searches and why this has the potential to unlock greater police and public confidence in the private security sector and the ability to provide support at major events.
Tackling security searches, specifically, Wilson believes that a Code of Practice also offers a measure of reassurance for the security officers themselves.
He said: “Of course we are never going to completely stop crime or other unwanted activity but if we can deter individuals through the application of best practice from targeting places where their activities are likely to have the most impact that is a good outcome.”
Commenting on the subject of what the BSIA seeks to address, Wilson replies that one area which immediately stands out relates to the use of CCTV in search areas: “This is now something that is part of a key recommendation. It makes sense in a person-to-person search situation, for example, to have a secondary individual with oversight and this is recorded in an area with CCTV.”
Looking ahead, Wilson is optimistic that the Code of Practice will eventually become a British standard and, in fact, this is part of the reason for promoting it so strongly at this year’s IFSEC. He said: “In my view we have an extremely good document at this stage – there is a lot of detail and information in there. Some of the expertise that has been instrumental in developing this is from ex-military people who have experience with searches in some of the most testing environments you can think of. Only after a fairly stringent analysis, and assessment, has it a chance of reaching the goal of a recognised standard.”

Adding Value
So to conclude, given the challenges which today’s cities face to maintain a safe and secure environment, the message has to be that it makes sense for municipalities, and other public sector bodies, to unlock the expertise which the private security sector can offer, whether that be through partnership initiatives, the development of best practice guidance, or to keep up to speed with the latest criminal and terrorist threats and, crucially, the techniques that can be applied to bridge potential security gaps.

Further Information