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Assessing how robust your security systems really are

The annual report on crime, and related trends, by the Commissioner of Police should be applauded. It is a commendable attempt at transparency, allowing members of the public - who are also major stakeholders in the fight against crime - to make assessments of the Royal Bahamas Police Force's performance, efficiency and reliability. The report validates or disproves based on numbers, not pure conjecture and emotion. We can always question the numbers, but in the absence of any count or audit, we must accept what has been laid before us as a reliable account of crime in The Bahamas. Both the police and the public must remember they are partners in maintaining the security and safety of The Bahamas. Too often it appears to be an 'us against them' mentality, while the criminal sits in the shadows as the only real beneficiary of poor police-community relations.

Based on the report, firearms were used in the majority of armed robbery incidents in 2021. The report goes on to state that companies are being most frequently targeted between the hours of 6pm and 10pm. Some 151 businesses were held up, placing staff and customers alike in harm’s way. With that type of information, business owners and security planners need to make better decisions on where to allocate resources. These crime mitigation strategies can range from cash reduction initiatives such as increased cash drops or moving to electronic payment platforms. I am amused when I see investments have been made in ballistic cash cages but the staff are not using it.

Another noteworthy aspect from the Crime Report indicates that ‘Thursdays’ appear to be the day of choice for the commission of armed robberies. It would thus appear that the ‘armed robber’ is preparing for the weekend, which is not an unusual trait in our society, as many persons look to the weekends to relax from a long work week. Finally, ‘location…. location…. location’ is also touched on in the crime brief. Without a doubt, New Providence remains not only the economic hub for The Bahamas but, unfortunately, also leads the way for armed robbery. It would appear that notwithstanding the bulk of the population lives in the east of New Providence, the south and south-western areas appear to be more impacted by armed robbery. As stated, it is a good idea to improve relations with the police station responsible for your area and take some initiative in making your community safer.

In visiting several businesses, it is interesting how these operations manage the implementation of their security programmes and do not fully use the natural preventative mechanisms already in place. Thus, in many instances, critical initiatives are overlooked, repeated or are just plain silly. What is even worse is when the operations manager or security director is asked about what they have done, and there seems to be no method to their strategy. The intentions are certainly good. However, the approach is disjointed and wasteful financially. I have decided not to mention some of these failures as I do not want to put lives and other assets at unnecessary risk.

Business owners and managers need help, and not necessarily just from security service providers, who too often are only concerned about making the extra dollar. Recommendations for additional cameras or more guards should not come from the third party selling that product or service. At the least, a second opinion should be sought.

Here is a quick, easy method for companies to assess their security. The intent of this list is to help you, especially persons who have been given the security ’hat’ as a part of their regular duties, to fine tune and improve upon current efforts. The ingredients listed are by no means final, but do set a good foundation and provide structure for the way forward.

So here is my 11-step guide to assessing how robust your security systems actually are:

  1. Business Type - The service you offer puts you at greater risk of a particular type of loss event. Thus a commercial bank's security priorities will differ from that of an investment bank. Retail concerns vary from those of the wholesaler.

  2. Inventory Type – Similar to what are you selling, items that can be pushed into a shoplifter's pocket, or services that can be gained via identity theft and the use of other fraudulent methods. If the assets are intellectual, how do you protect them?

  3. Location – Critical to the success and failure of many businesses. However, if you have not taken into account the negative components of your demographic base, then you are exposed to a variety of potential risk factors

  4. Access - How easy is it to get to your assets (staff/inventory/information/reputation). Attention must be given to external and internal design controls, which allow trusted and appropriate entry and exit.

  5. Emergency Response Plan - As a result of ‘Murphy’s Law’, have a plan on how to prepare, respond and recover from events that are typical to your industry and location.

  6. Insurance – Notwithstanding the potential for the scope and negative impact of ‘Murphy’s Law’, you will need this in varying forms and fashions.

  7. Employees - Some may argue that this group should be at the top of the list, as statistics from a wide cross-section of industries and professions suggest that they cause the greatest loss for companies, be it through negligence or intentional criminal or malicious acts

  8. Customer – Not far behind is this group. You know who they are, as in too many instances their intention is not good.

  9. Awareness and Education - The simple 'shoplifters will be prosecuted' or 'business is being monitored by surveillance cameras' will not stop everyone, but it will eliminate a percentage of potential threats. People need to know what type of behaviour is expected from them and what penalties exist for their non-compliance.

  10. Continuous Review – The approach must be dynamic and fluid, adjusting and adapting. Be as flexible as necessary and within reason.

  11. Security Plan – As simple as a document outlining the above categories, detailing your awareness and mitigation of issues identified.

Fundamental to understanding this list is recognising how comprehensive security is, and the fact that every business invests in this in one way or another. This investment speaks to the company's commitment to protecting its assets, people, information, property and reputation from damage or loss. What it entails is that the end result actually, and positively, impacts operations. When speaking with managers and business leaders, there are clearly disconnects in the level of understanding about security. ‘Security’ is the prevention of loss or protection of assets from loss, be it harm or theft. This definition opens the mind to an entirely different perspective. So many persons are stuck in the loss recovery component of security, which is a reactive or 'after the event' approach. The loss has already occurred, which indicates your security systems have failed. The reduction and removal of loss events is true and successful security.

I hope this list is helpful in your development and management of a real, resilient and robust security programme.

NB: Gamal V. Newry is the president and senior consultant for Preventative Measures. He brings over 35 years of insight and experience as it relates to crime and security risk management, business continuity and disaster management. Comments inquires, and questions can be sent to info@preventativemeasures.org

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