As the UK faces ongoing cuts to policing and public services, the challenge for the security industry is to show leadership in how it can help cover the shortfall in police effectiveness, especially at a deterrent level, as well as helping local authorities to get the best value from their reduced budgets. The key to addressing both is well planned and managed collaboration.
Whatever the outcome of the General Election, it is a certainty that the austerity programme will continue. This will likely have a further impact on the ability of the police to maintain on-the-ground visibility and to respond to low-level incidents. It will also put increasing pressure on local authorities that cannot afford to neglect security at parks and other public sites, but will find it harder to actually financially afford to deliver security. At the same time they cannot rely on police to the degree they would like.
As Chair of the Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications (CSSC) South East Region I can attest to the power and effectiveness of collaborative working. As a partnership between law enforcement agencies, local and national government organisations and private sector businesses, I have been hugely impressed by the ‘greater than the sum of the parts’ effectiveness delivered by the initiative. This concept could, and should, translate at a micro level. There is even an argument that micro-level collaborative programmes could potentially feed into larger schemes such as regional CSSC schemes. The two-way passage of intelligence would strengthen both.
But how would micro collaboration work in practice?
There are already examples of successful collaborative security best practice to be found in many of the better estates security programmes, where the more conscientious security company will make a point of liaising not only with site management, but with individual resident businesses and organisations to better understand their operations, staff, concerns and vulnerabilities. This will not only give the security manager a better view of the specific requirements of the site, but will also serve to bring those individual residents and organisations onboard and empower them to become involved. They are not merely stakeholders, but are essential components in a highly effective strategy. They become the intelligence and the extra eyes and ears on the ground, but each with a vested interest in vigilance.
Communications is of course crucial and all component parts of the collaborative team need to have in place communication channels through which information can flow both upwards from residents, and downwards from the security manager. But in the age of smartphone and other mobile communications and computing, putting in place a bespoke communication mechanism for collection and dissemination of information is relatively easy.
With such a scheme in place, the role of the police is reduced. Security becomes more holistic in nature at the site, and therefore more effective. Low level crime is tackled quickly and effectively at source, and police intervention is only needed in the most serious incidents. There is also more of a feeling of deterrent when it looks and feels like all parties on a site are on alert. For the criminal considering a burglary or graffiti, it is much harder to plan when everybody is alert and plugged in to site-wide communication. It could even be argued that a visible police presence is less effective if all the criminal has to do is wait until they are out of sight.
For local authorities requiring security for parks and other sites, the challenge of collaborative security is perhaps a little more difficult, yet still feasible. In this case it will include local residents where possible, and will require the security company to make itself known, familiar and trusted to all users of the facility. At Ward Security we have some considerable experience in this approach.
At Kelsey Park in Kent, our Park Patrolling Officers have become highly valued by local authorities, park managers, Friends of Kelsey Park group, and visitors. Such is the effectiveness of the Park Patrolling Officers that they are able to manage 156 parks and open spaces within a borough, providing help and support to members of the public as well as being an obvious visual deterrent.
So collaborative working is nothing new, and indeed is proven at the micro level as well as the broader regional level as can be seen with the Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications initiatives that started in London, but which have also been established in the South East, East Anglia and Scotland. The CSSC concept will undoubtedly be applied to other regions across the UK in time. But from a more local level it is surely the duty of all security suppliers to apply collaborative working, if not only to deliver a better service to clients, but also to ‘do their bit’ in a time of austerity.
As published in Risk UK www.risk-uk.com