The Impact of Street Crime on Security Professionals

Do you know that historically, the street crime increases, proportionately, with population growth?

Crime in England is accelerating and according to the police figures, the London murder rate has now surpassed that of New York for the first time in modern history. Not only  this place the general public at risk but arguably, it exposes the front-line security operator to even greater danger.

 

In order to counter the threat of street crime we need to understand the factors behind it. Those reasons can range from factors such as social background, poverty, inequality, toxic masculinity, alcohol abuse, deprivation, limited job opportunities and social exclusion.

From a psychological point of view, police tactics of stop and search can lead individuals and gangs toward feelings of mistrust, marginalisation, victimisation, and of course massive resentment towards authorities. Gang members are significantly more likely than others members of the public to carry weapons. Instead of a punitive enforcement approach, we have to turn our attention to more effective measures. This can be involvement in public safety programs, trust building and a bigger presence in youths educational programs to rise awareness about the consequences of violence and street crime.

 

Even more importantly, we have to take into consideration the fact that youth centres and projects have been closed or affected by public funding cuts. With local councils budgets cut by 50%, statistics reported that between 2012 and 2016, over 600 centres where closed. This leads the young generation to find alternative activities after-school. Without the support and safe place they find in the local youth clubs, they easily get swallowed by the claws of street gangs.

 

“I think this has been one of the problems with policy: we say our risk of being a victim of violence is much lower, but who are ‘we’ and who are we not including in that category?” Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies told the Guardian.

With 132 homicides occurred in London last year it may not seem like a huge number for the government to take some feasible actions.

Financial cuts have impacted the number of police officers on the ground, despite recruitment efforts by the Metropolitan Police to convince people on a career in law enforcement. At their record lowest levels since the 80’s, police officers in England are becoming outnumbered and overwhelmed. In London there are only three police officers for 1000 citizens, and across the whole country, there has been a reduction of more than 200,000 officers. It is clear that the authorities need more support.

 

So, what has this got to do with you, I hear you ask? Well, I believe that  security companies could play a more active role in preventing street crime, after all, isn’t creating deterrents at very core of your business?

 

We have seen a sharp increase in the need for manned security on a variety of industries which serve the public interest. And, from a security point of view, many companies are guilty of overlooking the safety of their staff and public too. Due to ferocious marketplace competition, companies are more focused than ever before on winning contacts at any cost. It is rather disturbing that many security companies will now accept any kind of contract without giving consideration to the safety of their clients and employees. As a security provider myself, my own company, Shield has had to turn down contracts where the client requested only one security officer for the gathering of more than 100 people. Without risings awareness of the implications that may arise from not having an appropriate level of manning, clients will always look to reduce their expenses and opt for ‘creative’ and potentially dangerous solutions.

 

Anyone operating within the security industry is at risk of being exposed to a potentially dangerous situation, it comes with the territory. However, it’s not to say that just because there is a possibility for ‘things to go pear-shaped’ that all outcomes are justifiable, many incidents could be mitigated with better planning. The cost of freedom is always high. The tragedy of Tudor Simionov is no exception.

 

Mr. Simionov was one of 3 security contractors working at a private event in Park Lane, London, UK on  New Years Eve, 2018. He was stabbed to death when he attempted to prevent gatecrashers entering the luxury propriety of the host. His 2 colleagues also suffered stab wounds, though not life threatening.  Attracting a lot of media attention and involvement in creating awareness about nightlife, clients and security providers should take a step back to analyse those risks. Is it possible to overcome unknown situations with only three security staff private event in central London? Certainly, if this incident is anything to go by, then it would suggest not.

 

This article is not intended to debate or presume the facts of the incident. However, if an inquiry was being conducted, the questions I would want answering would be:

Had a venue risk assessment been conducted prior to the event?

Where the security officers who were working that night contracted directly by the event manager or were they supplied through a security company?

How many guests were invited to the event and how many actually attended?

Who decided that only three security officers would be sufficient for the event?

What level of conflict management training had the security officers received, and how well did they know the legislation of the country?

What were the established SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) for denying entrance and then escalating to a high level? And was everyone aware of them?

 

Without a doubt, the roles of retail security, door supervisor, Close Protection or event security carry different responsibilities and risks.

So, should we also adapt the level protective equipment issued and worn for different tasks? For instance , should protective vests be worn by security staff working the doors? I say yes, and if you haven’t already, now more than ever, is the time to invest in a kevlar vest.

As frontline operators, we cannot just rely on a risk assessment to inform us of appropriate countermeasures. And with the current legislation in place, we aren’t allowed to wear any other protective types of equipments in the line of duty to defend against street crime.

 

The ballistic vest may seem extreme, however, when assessing the severity of risk you may be exposed to, consideration should be given to all outcomes and likely scenarios. And, it’s my opinion that a Kevlar stab resistant vest it is an absolute must as an effective item of personal protection equipment. Moreover, cut, slash and even human biting resistant clothing can add an extra layer of protection against violent attacks toward frontline professionals. Additionally, without better training in conflict management, self-defence, restraint techniques, every front-line security is exposed to unnecessary risk.

 

Personally, I hope there will be a union for security officers to serve the best interest, not only of their members but of the whole industry. The incorporation of such a union would be beneficial for security companies, their clients, and their staff who put their life on the line.

Posted by Alexandru Zamfir

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