How security providers can step up to support personal safety
How can security providers support efforts to reduce violence and keep people safe? Here is a personal view from Judy Atkinson and proposals for a multi-faceted, phased strategy.
- 60% of adults have been harassed on the street.
- One in six women have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport.
- One in four women experience domestic abuse.
- Two women a week are killed by a partner.
These incidents do not just happen in the night-time economy, which has been the main focus thus far, and they don’t occur just in cities and towns.
The recent news about the Metropolitan Police and other institutions sadly means that some members of the community have less trust in the police. These statistics and events show there is a real issue. How can the security providers assist?
I have been in the security industry for nearly 20 years – in industry I never thought I would go into. However, one of the huge benefits is that my teams and I can make a difference to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. We are not alone and I believe if all security providers worked together utilising some of the following strategies, then we can make a difference.
This has now become personal, as I am quite sure it will be to many of you reading this.
I live in Wiltshire but my 21-year-old daughter has moved to London. She loves London, but she hates the number of incidents that happen to her almost on a monthly basis.
She has been alone in a tube with a man who tried to assault her, she has been threatened with being killed and she has been followed – several times.
So, how do we as private security professionals make this better?
I truly believe that all security providers can play a significant role in reducing violence and keeping people safe with their own approach and bringing other organisations together. I propose a multi-faceted, phased strategy to developing and building the approach to keep people safe and prevent crime.
Step 1 – A diverse workforce in security
The private security industry provides representatives in many public places, normally in a uniform, who can provide help. From concierges to retail security staff to door supervisors and BID Wardens. However, in the main, they are predominately male and sometimes do not have the look or feel of being approachable.
As humans we like to seek out our own. It is a natural state. Therefore, we have launched Lodge CREATE – to make the security industry as diverse as possible. To raise the statistic of only 11% of women in the industry to a higher figure; to ensure the industry employs transgender and non-binary people; to ensure there is someone for everyone to be able to approach. When in trouble you want to go to someone who is approachable. We want our diverse workforce to be working in designated Safe Havens, we want them to be trained correctly to be able to assist. To make our security industry more diverse, the entire industry must do this. To make our imagery more diverse and appealing. To look at the way job adverts are written – to make them more inclusive. To talk to colleges and schools to show that security can be a multi-faceted career with different opportunities. On top of this, once new entrants start, to ensure they have mentors and a support network and that our company is totally inclusive, otherwise you will lose them.
Step 2 – A culture that understands training
We have to be brave and strong and stand up and report unacceptable behaviour. It is all about cause and effect. From a security delivery perspective, we must train our staff to be able to address this with those who demonstrate unacceptable behaviours, whilst remaining safe.
Are we ready as organisations, though, in ensuring our security teams are able to do this? Do we need to look at our internal policies and training? Have we adapted our training delivery to be able to deal with these issues? There are new-style trainers out there and we have to change the way we retrain, develop and grow. There are new innovative, accredited and specific training courses being delivered now that allow our staff to be able work effectively and handle difficult situations.
Step 3 – Report, Report, Report
Every security company has a reporting system. It is irrelevant which one, the important thing is how the information is used. There is a multitude of Business Crime Reduction Partnerships (BCRPs) working across the UK. They are there to create safe environments through effective information sharing and have successful relationships with police forces, local authorities and other stakeholders, and they tackle crime at a local level; therefore, sharing all the intelligence and incidents we have with them is critical. It builds a picture and evidence to ensure arrests are made.
Where areas have a Business Improvement District (BID) in place, retailers and companies are now asking that as part of their levy payment, the BID provides security. That security is also an important element in reporting. The security officers are patrolling the local area and their reports join those reported from inside the building. This all adds up to a total picture and, in turn, can help support a reduction in crime.
That person who is violent, and not just aggressive in one particular shop or bar, and this behaviour is continual; reporting this and collaborating is vital, and as evidence is required to ensure action is taken.
Step 4 – Strong and effective campaigns
Many years ago, smoking a cigarette was totally acceptable. You would light up on a train or bus, or even smoke all the way to Ibiza! If someone lit up a cigarette now, at their desk as an example, it would be totally abhorrent. In fact, it just would not happen. This change was effected by, of course, the change in law, but in the main by repeated messaging. The same can be applied to anti-social, aggressive and violent behaviour, so that it becomes so intolerable
The same was applied to drink driving and wearing a seat belt. Of course, there will always be an element of society that will break the rules but the majority will adhere. Importantly, more and more people will report it, if someone gets into a car drunk. They know what could happen if they did not.
We require consistent and powerful marketing campaigns to share messaging around unacceptable and anti-social behaviour and violent crime. One could argue this is the government’s responsibility. As providers of a service, we can also effect change; we too, as security companies, can put out this messaging – that anti-social, aggressive behaviour is unacceptable and will be dealt with and reported. Eventually, by joining forces in this joint messaging, they have nowhere to hide.
Step 5 – Apps and technology in support
What can we do now to protect ourselves and our staff?
There are many safety and crime reporting apps available. Imabi is a unified technology platform that aims to tackle harmful and unacceptable behaviours. This can be tailored and customised and is behind a number of safety products, including the BTP Railway Guardian app and other applications for schools, businesses and a soon-to-be released community version.
An alternative being used by Bradford BID is WalkSafe. WalkSafe has identified the need for digital solutions that help make people feel safe and secure. Their mission is to bring the world’s safety and security data into accessible apps and platforms giving users ‘safety at their fingertips’.
What is relevant on a good app is real police crime data pulled regularly from the police database. The app should be able to toggle on and off the crime data, and display safe spaces, live angel beacons, trained premises and community data. It should actively encourage users to report if there has been a lack of street lights, if somewhere feels unsafe or if rowdy groups are nearby. The user should believe that inputting data into the map enables other users to avoid these hot spots and creates a culture of prevention and community. The apps should take the data collected (for example, continuous lack of lighting in certain roads) to local authorities to improve residents’ local neighborhoods, as well as displaying safe havens and crisis centres.
This reporting will hopefully also encourage venues to improve and work towards better safety outcomes for both employees and customers.
The crucial element of any safety app is what happens when you hit that SOS button. Most allow you to enter a list of contacts and will alert them when you require help. However, an additional feature is where it is monitored by a 24/7 Control Room which can speak to the person to ascertain what help is needed or just keep talking to them. They can deploy a security mobile patrol car. Companies are taking this option up, so that they know their staff can get a response if required.
For security companies which have their own mobile cars or work with a network, the more cars able to respond, the better the chances are that help will be there swiftly. It is that peace of mind that someone can be with you when required. It is also a deterrent to any would-be attacker, that now responses are swift.
I believe this all begins with effective education from early years on what constitutes unacceptable behaviour. In support we need diverse and proactive security delivery, constant media messaging to show this behaviour is unacceptable, with technology and constant and consistent reporting. This means we as an industry will be doing something that will effect change.
Group Sales Director