Experts from the financial, retail, Government, police and security sectors gathered in London at the official launch of The Security Alliance to share their thoughts on how best to protect our communities from emerging threats.
The formal launch of The Security Alliance took place on the 15th June aboard The Silver Sturgeon on the River Thames before an array of distinguished guests, among them Baroness Ruth Henig (chairman) and Bill Butler (CEO) of the Security Industry Authority, British Security Industry Association chief executive James Kelly and Simon Gordon, founder and chairman of the Facewatch crime-fighting initiative.
Not to be confused with The Security Alliance already in existence – and itself determined to help steer a course for the future of private sector regulation – the group represents a dedicated partnership of leading security organisations and their associates formed to collectively support the UK’s retail, public sector and financial institutions.
In fact, six core businesses – Securitas Security Services, Securitas Mobile, Securitas Alert Services, Niscayah, Loomis and Pinkerton – frame The Security Alliance, the overriding aim of which is to provide solutions that both reduce risk and manage costs for the end users operational within those sectors.
With The Silver Sturgeon having upped anchor and departed The Savoy Pier on London’s ever-busy Victoria Embankment at 11.00 am sharp, Securitas Security Services’ UK and Ireland managing director Geoff Zeidler promptly introduced the day ahead.
Key speakers, key questions
That being the case, the day ahead was defined by some guest speakers – namely Professor Martin Gill, Michael Weatherley MP and detective chief superintendent Tony Porter – who would set the tone and both energise and focus attendees’ thoughts on three central areas to be debated over luncheon and in the afternoon workshop/discussion:
- how can the collaboration of the business community, the security industry and the police service positively impact on security in our communities, and what – if any – barriers exist that perhaps prevent success at present?
- what do businesses, business leaders and specific industry sectors desire in terms of regulatory reform and support?
- are businesses and budgets currently organised to manage risk, security and safety in an holistic manner, and does The Security Alliance represent the correct approach to support such an aim?
Different strands of security working together
First speaker of the day was Martin Gill, the well-known and hugely respected director of Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International (PRCI).
A Professor of Criminology, for over two decades Gill has been actively involved in a range of studies relating to different aspects of crime and its prevention. He has studied the victims of crime and criminality, the police service and the probation service, and looked at different ways in which the community manages crime (or attempts to).
Chairman of the ASIS Research Council and a Fellow of The Security Institute, Professor Gill holds a specific interest in business crime and the security sector.
Working alongside his colleagues at PRCI, he has formulated and conducted studies on the causes of false burglar alarms, why fraudsters are tempted to steal, the effectiveness of CCTV and security officers and how companies might best protect their brand image.
“Of late, I’ve heard lots of words and phrases being talked about in the security sector,” said Professor Gill. “Words like ‘integration’, ‘convergence’ and ‘holistic’ frequently crop up. All of them seem to advocate the need for different elements of security to work together, and to work with and alongside other relevant disciplines.”
Highlighting an anomaly, Professor Gill astutely pointed out: “All of the latest studies on war suggest that security is a prime subject. It’s odd, then, that many business and even criminal studies seem to ignore it when there’s a wealth of evidence available to support the assertion that security is an established and essential part of today’s business landscape.”
Professor Gill continued: “It’s fair to say that security must now be seen to add value to the end customer’s business.”
Over the years, this academic has spent much time visiting prisons and talking to and engaging with offenders.
“They give us great clues as to the mindset of the criminal, and how they think,” stated Professor Gill. “Why have they changed their targets? Criminals have to be sure that security will not work. They are the ones who rely on security technology not being effective. They are the ones who rely on that technology being poorly specified and data being badly handled. Let’s be honest – if security doesn’t work it’s often due to the fact it’s being badly managed.”
Professor Gill’s parting shot was wholly salient and perfect as a tone-setter for the day. “Security is now all about added value and being a business enhancer. Single measures adopted in isolation can be easy to defeat. Collective measures that are well managed have to be the way forward.”
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Business and Retail Crime
Next to speak was Michael Weatherley MP, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Hove, East Sussex and chairman of the all-new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Business and Retail Crime.
A graduate in business studies from London’s South Bank University and a chartered management accountant by profession, Weatherley’s first Parliamentary contest was back in 2001 when he wrestled for control of the safe Labour seat in Barking, east London.
In the 2005 General Election, Weatherley stood as the Conservative candidate for Brighton, a seat eventually held by incumbent Labour politician David Lepper.
Weatherley was finally successful in entering Parliament when he defeated sitting Labour MP Celia Barlow at the last General Election, overturning the latter’s narrow 2005 winning margin of just over 400 votes.
In short, Weatherley focused on the work carried out to date by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on business crime, the scourge of shoplifting and what it does to retailers and communities, Crime Reduction Partnerships and how they’re funded, the under-reporting of crime and criminality, the present statutory rights of crime victims and the joint role that communities and members of the private sector have to play in fighting criminality.
Counter-terrorism and the local community
Final speaker of the day was Greater Manchester Police (GMP) detective chief superintendent Tony Porter, head of the North Western Counter-Terrorism Unit (NWCTU) and a serving police officer for the last 29 years (having started his career as a community beat officer in Stockport).
Porter received the Queen’s Police Medal in 2008 for distinguished service, the same year that GMP’s Counter-Terrorism Unit became the NWCTU.
At one time heading up GMP’s Special Branch, Porter has commanded several of the largest counter-terrorism operations within the UK to date.
Porter began his discourse for the business leaders present by quoting Sir David Veness CBE QPM, the former senior police officer who served as assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police Service with responsibility for specialist operations.
“I remember David once saying: ‘There’s a terrorist in town near you’. At the time I was pretty sceptical about that, but he was absolutely right. Indeed, the tempo of our engagement in this sphere has done nothing but escalate.”
The present threat level from terrorism in the UK is set at ‘severe’, of course, and has been for well over 12 months now. In simple terms, this means that at some juncture an attack on the UK mainland is highly likely.
It’s not just Al-Qaeda who pose a threat, either. Irish Republican terrorism is very much back on the radar, while terrorists emanating from the Yemen are now also a major threat to our safety and well-being.
When does citizenship descend into McCarthyism?
For the most part, Porter focused his attentions on the recent Prevent review published by the Government and highlighted on both SMT Online and Infologue.com
“At what point does citizenship descend into McCarthyism?” is the fundamental question he posed, and it’s one well worth thinking about.
Porter continued: “We do need to break through this torpor of not wishing to share information. We live in a cosmopolitan and pluralist society, and we absolutely must pick up on emerging extremism issues and prepare to deal with them.”
Continuing that theme, Porter opined: “These days, terrorism moves from nought to 60 in a flash. With the Olympic Games on the horizon, there is now an even greater need than ever before for us all to work together in combating the threats before us.”
The former head of CID in South Manchester also referred to Operational Sentinel, wherein purposeful educational links have been fostered with the police service in New York.
In truth, Porter has visited Ground Zero and learned at first hand the pain and suffering wrought on Americans as a direct result of the 9/11 attacks.
“Something like 18,000 small businesses went bust after that episode,” cautioned Porter. “The financial impact of 9/11 was estimated at two trillion dollars.”
If nothing else, it’s a statement which goes to prove we must do everything in our power to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.
It follows, then, that the best way of ‘Shaping Security Within Our Communities’ is for all parties involved to engage in constructive dialogue on an ongoing basis. It’s about sharing knowledge, exchanging thoughts and ideas, sharing values and discussing innovation.