Security sector doesn’t enjoy immunity

With elections due later this year in the UK, Spain and Switzerland, attitudes to the prevailing political landscape of austerity are changing rapidly. Are physical security budgets in the public sector ever protected from cuts, and what is the outlook for our industry?

Consider the landscape: A left-leaning party has come to power in Greece on an anti-austerity platform and with the stated intention of halving the country’s €315bn debts. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has rejected the proposal out of hand saying that creditors have already proved generous in their concessions. Meanwhile, the hard-left Podemos party in Spain has aligned itself with the Greek government and organised marches in which 100,000 people packed the main squares of Madrid. Opinion polls suggest that Podemos could sweep to victory at the December election.

It might be counter-intuitive, but any industry observer will tell you that when a recession leads to public protests and social unrest, governments usually reduce their spending on policing and camera surveillance as part of general budgetary consolidation. Our sector doesn’t enjoy immunity, an inconvenient truth illustrated in the UK when, during its second year, the present Coalition saw riots in London, Liverpool and the West Midlands but promptly reduced annual spending on public order and safety by £3bn. At a more micro level, while total UK public expenditure in the first two years of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat alliance fell by only 1.4 percent, police numbers in England and Wales dropped by 7 percent.

The recent terrorist attacks in France prompted Prime Minister Manuel Valls to announce the hiring of 2,680 extra security personnel and purchase of additional security equipment to the value of €425m. He has been understandably reserved about specifics, but it’s known that the physical (as opposed to cyber) elements of this budget will be spent in part on airport screening as well as bullet-proof vests, helmet-mounted cameras and new vehicles for police. The spending is in addition to previously planned police hirings.

Advances in CCTV are assisting police significantly with mainstream public order offences
CCTV remains a technology that is used primarily for evidence gathering, deterrence and communicating information

ISIS has promised attacks on European cities (a plot to storm police stations in Belgium was foiled at the 11th hour in January), and increased vigilance at border controls is unlikely to provide adequate protection. Researchers based at King’s College, London University, estimate that 1,900 European citizens travelled to Syria last year with the intention of waging jihad, and it’s a logical supposition that similar numbers of disaffected people with potential for radicalisation remain in Europe.

The whole security landscape changed with the 1983 Beirut barracks suicide bombing. Despite rapid advances in video analytics, CCTV remains a technology that is used primarily for evidence gathering, deterrence and communicating information (often very effectively) once a major incident has begun. The jihadist suicide mindset, by definition, reduces the importance of evidence gathering at a crime scene and negates surveillance as a deterrent. Only rarely do cameras alert authorities to a potential threat.

But at the same time, advances in CCTV are assisting police significantly with mainstream public order offences. In a development that has bucked the trend of budget austerity, UK constabularies are placing large orders for body-worn cameras, and 16,000 will be in use by the Metropolitan Police this time next year. The cameras are becoming increasingly flexible, and most models can be transferred from an officer’s clothing to a tactical helmet at will.

Security manufacturers are proving responsive with their business models as the scramble for limited budgets intensifies, and forward-thinking R&D departments have exploited cloud computing to offer video surveillance and access control “as a service.”

Security manufacturers are proving responsive with their business models as the scramble for limited budgets intensifies, and forward-thinking R&D departments have exploited cloud computing to offer video surveillance and access control “as a service.” This is an almost Darwinian correlation between adaptability and success in an environment of extreme competition.

Few of the correlations I expected as I researched the effect of economic austerity on crime figures have proved true. Mass unemployment means many people with time on their hands and an economic motivation to steal from shops. Conversely, a buoyant labour market will surely see a reduction in retail theft? And yet unemployment in the UK is currently at six percent – its lowest since the banking collapses of 2008 – but retail crime rose by 18 percent in 2014 compared with the previous year. Real-life conditions outside the statistical model of the economist remain harsh, and private sector retailers are investing in advanced security to combat “shrinkage” with megapixel cameras and devices to detect career thieves who equip themselves with de-tagging devices and foil-lined shopping bags.

In the government sector, austerity is currently reflected in “make do and mend” attitudes from senior public servants controlling budgets. Again, our industry is proving responsive with an upsurge in hybrid surveillance systems using both IP cameras and analogue devices deemed still fit for purpose. It’s a graduated model that appeals to accountants who are trying to consolidate spending even if they don’t understand the technology.

I would be interested in hearing about the in-the-field experiences of installers of hybrid systems. Do they perform consistently at anything more than 12.5 fps, and how effective is this rate for evidentiary purposes?

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Jeremy Malies European Correspondent, SourceSecurity.com

Jeremy Malies is a veteran marketeer and writer specialising in the physical security sector which he has covered for 20 years. He has specific interests in video analytics, video management, perimeter intrusion and access control.

In case you missed it

Intersec 2021 cancelled, Messe Frankfurt announces that Dubai trade fair will now take place in January 2022
Intersec 2021 cancelled, Messe Frankfurt announces that Dubai trade fair will now take place in January 2022

Intersec, the world’s renowned security, safety, and fire protection trade fair, has been rescheduled to take place in January 2022, organiser of the trade event, Messe Frankfurt Middle East confirmed on September 24, 2020. The 23rd edition of the three-day event was originally set to run from January 24-26, 2021, at the Dubai World Trade Centre, in Dubai, UAE. However, the event has now been moved to 2022, after extensive consultation with key industry stakeholders. Intersec Dubai 2022 “We’ve spoken to many of our exhibitors, industry trade associations, supporters, and partners over the last couple of weeks and have heard first-hand the many challenges they’re facing putting pressure on their ability to participate at Intersec in January 2021,” said Alexandria Robinson, Intersec’s Show Director at Messe Frankfurt. He adds, “Moving Intersec to its customary January dates in 2022 at the Dubai World Trade Centre will allow time for recovery.” Webinar series in 2021 Ms. Robinson said Intersec will be very active throughout 2021, via its ongoing webinar series Ms. Robinson said Intersec will be very active throughout 2021, via its ongoing webinar series, while the team is now working towards creating a virtual event early next year, so as to engage industry leaders, regulators, government agencies and opinion formers. “We might be restricted physically, but we know there is a definitive need for critical conversations and discussions to address the challenges the industry has faced,” said Robinson. Digital forum to share ideas and solutions He adds, “By hosting these talks via a digital forum, it enables us to keep connected to the industry and nurture our existing relationships, whilst sharing solutions and common goals. We’ll share further details and plans about the digital event in the coming weeks.” Intersec’s popular free-to-attend webinar series, of which there’ve been 11 so far in the last four months, have kept thousands of attendees abreast of the latest industry trends and opportunities. Ensuring safety in COVID-19 pandemic period “We know we have a vital role to play in connecting and supporting the industry, and the Intersec webinars stimulate meaningful conversations, collaborations and success stories,” stated Robinson, adding “We will continue to run these and support our stakeholders in every way possible until we meet again personally, and safely, at Intersec 2022.” She further said, “One thing is absolutely certain, our community is resilient and will bounce back. It has been involved in many frontline situations throughout the course of this year and it will continue to play a critical role in the months ahead. Throughout 2021 and come January 2022, we’ll have much to share and learn from each other.” Intersec 2020 Intersec in 2020 featured 1,100 exhibitors from 56 countries, while attracting 33,872 visitors from 135 countries. The global industry event is supported by Dubai Civil Defence, Dubai Police, the Security Industry Regulatory Agency (SIRA), Dubai Police Academy and Dubai Municipality.

What is the role of higher education to create next-gen security leaders?
What is the role of higher education to create next-gen security leaders?

Traditionally, security industry professionals have often come from backgrounds in law enforcement or the military. However, the industry is changing, and today’s security professionals can benefit from a variety of backgrounds and educational disciplines. The industry’s emphasis on technology solutions suggests a need for more students of computer science, engineering and other technology fields. The closer integration of security with related disciplines within the enterprise suggests a need to prepare through a broad array of educational pursuits. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the role of higher education to create the next generation of physical security leaders?

Transport security: utilising the cloud to manage passenger flow and improve health & safety
Transport security: utilising the cloud to manage passenger flow and improve health & safety

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the safety of passengers and staff aboard public transport has been an ongoing concern. The scenes of underground trains, still packed with commuters as infection rates soared, will have raised alarm bells with bus and train managers, transport officials and government representatives alike. Now, as infection rates hold steady and people slowly return to the workplace, a rise in commuter levels, coupled with a need for strong infection control protocols, is putting a strain on an already overburdened transport system. Managing passenger flow through bus terminals and train stations, while ensuring adherence to social distancing and mask-wearing policies, can be a difficult task. On buses and trains, staff have the unenviable task of challenging any individual who flouts the rules, while attempting to maintain safe operation for the benefit of all passengers. This is where advances in digital surveillance technologies can play an important role in enhancing security, improving operations and supporting the customer facing teams in their day to day roles.  The power of the cloud Keeping businesses afloat and people connected throughout the pandemicCloud or hosted technology has played an important part in keeping businesses afloat and people connected throughout the pandemic. When it comes to physical security such as video surveillance and access control, today’s cloud-enabled systems are far removed from the outdated CCTV and manual access control technologies employed in the past. Cloud connectivity brings with it many benefits, from a security, operational and also business intelligence point of view, thanks to the powerful data that these solutions produce which can be used to inform decision making. The advantages of cloud-based physical security technologies are many, and have wide ranging applications for all areas of the transport sector; across stations, transport hubs and vehicles. When used to support staff and complement existing processes, such systems can prove invaluable for transport professionals in helping to create a safer working environment, promoting confidence among personnel and passengers, and assuring passengers who are fearful about the current pandemic that all possible precautions are being taken during their journey. Managing occupancy across bus and rail Monitoring the movement of staff and passengers is an essential part of being able to maintain a safe operation. Through the utilisation of surveillance cameras at entrances and exit points, as well as at key areas within transport terminals and on the transport mode itself, occupancy thresholds can be determined to ensure passenger numbers do not exceed safe limits. Network surveillance cameras, accessed via mobile device, can enable transport officials to check passenger flow in real-time, while live alerts to warn that health and safety protocols are being breached, enable swift drafting of security or operations personnel to address the situation. Live alerts to warn that health and safety protocols are being breached Through internet of things (IoT) connectivity, additional devices can be easily added to complement the surveillance solution and unlock further benefits. Network audio speakers can be triggered to play pre-recorded messages to alert or inform passengers. Similarly, frictionless access control, enabling customers and staff to move ‘hands-free’ through gateways and ticket checkpoints to avoid viral spread, is made possible by having an access reader which is activated, for example, via QR codes on a mobile phone. And when access readers are integrated with surveillance cameras, this will act as a second layer of authentication to grant or refuse access based on valid staff credentials. Improving security in challenging times Such technologies, interconnected and able to share data, can be used to more effectively report in real time on activity that threatens to have an adverse effect on passengers, staff and the transport environment. Significant parts of the rail network are relatively unmonitored, and inevitably these areas are more vulnerable to vandalism. Similarly, on bus services, abuse of passengers and staff, and acts of criminal behaviour remain a concern. By alerting security staff to a developing situation before it occurs, an incident can be dealt with quickly, minimising disruption to transport services. Cloud based technology can be relied on Cloud based technology can be relied on to not only help improve current services, around passenger occupancy in the current pandemic, but also to help transport officials plan for the security challenges of the future. Simple customisation and easy scalability, plus software upgrades and firmware updates to ensure the system is always up to date and operational, form essential components of a future proof solution which is capable of bringing peace of mind to the transport industry. Additionally, predicted future benefits include the potential for customers to check transport occupancy levels via a mobile app. This would inform them of particularly busy times of passenger transit, allowing more choice over when and where to travel based on real-time data, and ultimately helping to even out passenger numbers to balance journeys and greatly improve efficiency and flow. In a busy world where the demands on our rail and bus networks are now impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and indeed the possibility for further related challenges in the future, such cloud-connected technologies represent a worthwhile investment.