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, particularly at a deterrent level, as well as assist local authorities in deriving the best value from their reduced budgets. As David Ward asserts, the key to addressing both of these issues is well planned and managed collaboration.
Whatever the outcome of this week’s General Election, it’s almost a certainty that the austerity programme will continue. This will likely have a further impact on the ability of the police service to maintain on-the-ground visibility and respond to low-level incidents.
It will also place increasing pressure on local authorities that cannot afford to neglect security at parks and other public sites, but who will find it that much harder to financially afford the delivery of effective and efficient security. At the same time, they cannot rely on the police service to the degree that they would like.
As the newly-appointed chairman of the Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications (CSSC) initiative’s 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’ve been hugely impressed by the ‘greater than the sum of its parts’ effectiveness delivered by the initiative.
Indeed, this concept could – and, to my mind, should – translate at a micro level. There’s even an argument to suggest 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.
How, though, would micro-collaboration work in practice?
There are already examples of successful collaborative Best Practice in security 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 also with individual resident businesses and organisations to better understand their operations, staff, concerns and vulnerabilities.
That kind of approach not only affords the security manager a better view of the specific requirements of the site, but will also serve to bring those individual residents and organisations on board and empower them to become involved. They’re not merely stakeholders, but rather 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.
Communication: the need for effective and efficient information flow
Communication 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.
In the age of smart phones 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 at a site becomes more holistic in nature and, therefore, more effective. Low level crime is tackled quickly and effectively at source, and police intervention is only needed for the most serious of incidents.
There’s also more of a feeling of a deterrent when it looks and feels like all parties on a site are ‘on alert’. For the criminal considering a burglary or spraying graffiti, it’s 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 the police officers in the locality 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 and yet still feasible. In this case, security provision will include local residents (where possible) and 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 such an approach. At Kelsey Park in Kent, for example, our Park Patrolling Officers have become highly valued by the local authority, park managers, the Friends of Kelsey Park Group and visitors alike. Such is the effectiveness of the Park Patrolling Officers that they’re 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 to criminality.
Collaborative working is nothing new, then, and indeed is proven at the micro level as well as the broader regional level. This can be seen with the CSSC initiatives that began in London and have since been established in the South East, East Anglia and Scotland.
In time, the CSSC concept will undoubtedly be applied to other regions across the UK.
At a more local level, it’s surely the duty of all security suppliers to apply collaborative working, if not only to deliver a better service to clients but be seen to ‘do their bit’ in a time of austerity.
David Ward is Managing Director of Ward Security