Enhancing Traditional Security Operations with Technology

December 4th, 2017 Comments off

I recently managed a complex event security operation for one of our corporate clients in a large U.S. metropolitan city. In preparing for the 2,000 company attendees that included high ranking executives and VIPs from around the world, the event planners had bought out a 25-story historic hotel, securing the massive lobby area, seven floors of meeting rooms, ballrooms and conference areas for a week.

Corporate event planners and a forty-five person support staff were responsible for facilitating logistics, scheduling the various conference sessions and arranging for the housing and catering needs of all attendees. My mission and responsibilities were to ensure personnel/attendee safety, protect assets, secure locations and develop event security response and risk mitigation strategies.

A key component of the FocusPoint risk mitigation strategy on these types of events is to conduct pre-event advance operations. Advance operations include those tasks associated with evaluating the venue (in this case, the entire hotel) to mitigate risk potential, and develop plans to address any security issues including threats to participants, theft of client property, emergency evacuation and medical support should an incident occur.

One sub-task of the advance operation was to identify vulnerable access points that would require security presence for access/credential monitoring. Additional security resources were also necessary to ensure that high-value and classified intellectual property displayed in all the conference rooms were secure.

The responsibility for the event security manager is to ensure that adequate resources are properly deployed to cover any risk contingency within an approved budget. In most cases, this would mean assigning a security guard or protection agent to vulnerable entry points and roving agents for credential monitoring. The cost for these resources can quickly become significant and challenging when dealing with tight security budgets.

Concerning the hotel event I mentioned above, traditional security staffing projections called for a minimum of 35 security/protective services agents covering a minimum of 12 hours per day. Considering the support need for five days of coverage, the cost for security personnel quickly exceeded $100,000.

During the course of my law enforcement and private sector security management career, I have continually sought to utilize technology to complement efficiencies and costs for traditional solutions. One solution that was implemented during the event was the use of RFID technology. While RFID tags are already being used for supply chain management, new techniques are continually being applied to support traditional security operations in a variety of ways.

To reduce security costs, RFID tags were embedded into event attendee credentials. Portable RFID readers were installed at all venue access doors, and small, mobile RFID antennas were positioned in all common areas to monitor and confirm that only credentialed guests were present. All attendees, VIPs, event staff and security personnel, were issued their assigned credentials upon arrival and check-in at the hotel with the instruction to wear their credentials at all times.

The RFID equipment immediately transmitted information to the command center whenever any individual not wearing proper credentials accessed the area or entered an access point. This information was then relayed via radio to our security response personnel assigned as rovers within each venue area. The individual was then escorted to the credentialing/check-in booth staffed by company event personnel to resolve the issue. Portable CCTV cameras also covered all access points and monitoring areas to document activities.

The effectiveness of the blended technology and traditional staffing model for this event resulted in greater efficiencies to quickly identify and resolve instances of non-credentialed persons within the venue and less intrusive contacts with event attendees. Also, during pre-event set-up activities, an expensive display device containing proprietary and sensitive information went missing from one of the exhibit areas before the physical security team was in place. A check of RFID monitoring records found that an outside vendor had mistakenly placed the device in a packing crate that was moved into the storage area. This resulted in a quick resolution to a potentially time-consuming investigation.

By incorporating cost-effective RFID technology into traditional security posting practices, I was able to reduce the number of security personnel needed and working hours by 68%, thereby generating substantial cost savings for our client. Properly implemented, the benefits of technologies blended with traditional security functions can greatly improve mission objectives and provide economic incentives in our industry space.

5 Key Benefits of GPS Tracking for Travel

November 7th, 2017 Comments off

 

  1. GPS personal travel tracking provides the location of travelers and assets from the time of departure to the time they return, at low cost
  2. The use of GPS during travel takes the guesswork out of finding and assisting travelers when itineraries, plans or routes change
  3.  GPS travel tracking allows you to warn travelers of hazardous or dangerous areas in real-time
  4.  GPS travel tracking provides crisis responders the exact location in order to provide support to a traveler in the event of an emergency, disaster or terrorist act
  5. GPS personal tracking delivers peace of mind with traveler-initiated alerts during emergencies

For more information on traveler tracking and travel security, please visit: www.focuspointintl.com

Top 5 Things That Should be Considered for Executives Who Travel

September 19th, 2017 Comments off

 

  1. Executives need to avoid the “it will never happen to me” mindset that promotes complacency
  2. Executives should conduct (or have their security) conduct proper travel risk assessments for each destination location on every trip
  3. Executives should ensure they can be quickly located in the event of a critical incident during all phases of travel
  4. Executives should always have a contingency action plan in place in the event of a critical incident
  5. Companies should have a current travel policy in place for all executives

Partnering Law Enforcement and Private Security

August 11th, 2017 Comments off

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While I was serving in California law enforcement, community policing was being implemented into neighborhoods throughout the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s. The idea was to establish a partnership with various entities such as businesses and schools in a joint effort to solve community problems and combat crime. At the time, I was assigned by our chief of police to implement a paradigm shift to community policing throughout our agency and community, and I spent the next year learning about this relatively new approach to policing.

The basic concept of community policing is to promote a wide variety of resources and strategies to mitigate potential situations that might create safety issues for the public. For example, crime, and the fear of crime as well as social unrest, are public safety issues that community policing sought to address.

To tackle these problems, community policing involves working partnerships with municipal agencies, private sector businesses, individual citizens, and the media to develop methods to keep communities safe and secure. The objective is to utilize a variety of resources and private sector entities to address crime, mitigate risk and pinpoint safety issues in the community rather than leaving it up to the police force.

Law enforcement agencies across the country today are facing manpower cuts and reduced budgets yet, still, carry the responsibility of ensuring that communities are safe and secure while reducing vulnerabilities against terrorism and many other hazards. This is an area where I strongly believe that collaborative public-private sector partnerships are just as vital today as community policing was in the 70s and 80s.

Back in the 1980s, police agencies and private sector security companies did not operate with mutual goals and objectives. Today, police are working with security companies on many collaborative issues and information sharing. Law enforcement managers and field officers now rely on trained security professionals to monitor locations, advise on potential crime trends and be the eyes and ears throughout every aspect of the community. For example, private sector entities actively respond to national emergencies and are retained to provide protective services and crisis response solutions to not only large corporations but also private citizen travelers when the need exists globally.

Partnerships between law enforcement and private technology companies have grown exponentially in a wide variety of areas including advanced computer and communications capabilities, CCTV, mobile cameras, drones, GPS tracking, robotics and forensics analysis. These partnerships have led to more efficient crime response, suspect identification, and crime resolution at greatly reduced costs compared to traditional policing methods used in the past.

If we take a good look at how collaboration is defined, we see that the concept of cooperating in partnerships can provide significant benefits to all participants and the citizens of a community.

These partnership benefits can start almost immediately once private sector entities and law enforcement realize they can accomplish their goals and objectives more effectively due to the mutual synergies involved. These advantages multiply and serve to achieve goals at significantly lower costs.

Travel Security and Situational Awareness

June 2nd, 2017 Comments off

passport

A close friend of mine recently told me he was traveling to the Middle East in the next few weeks and asked if I thought he would be safe and what risks he should be aware of.  I get these questions a lot these days.

Most business and leisure travelers plan how they will get there, where they will stay and what they will do without giving any real thought for security. Considering the number of business and leisure travel trips that occur each year, the fact is that a serious security related incident rarely occurs. Because of this, travelers develop a sense of complacency when it comes to security and tend not to have a backup plan when a crisis does occur.

Unfortunately, when things go wrong, unexpected events develop very quickly that can turn into a full-blown crisis resulting in serious injury or death. One very recent and tragic example is the Manchester Arena attack in England that targeted young concert attendees exiting the venue.

The lack of an action plan when something does go wrong greatly increases the risk that you could be negatively impacted or worse, become a victim. If you are a top corporate executive or high profile VIP, the chances are that a risk consultancy company like mine has already been contracted to create a critical incident response plan that covers proper advance work, robust protection services, counter-surveillance and rapid response extraction as a part of your travel risk management program.

However, what if you are not a high-level corporate executive or a VIP like most business or leisure travelers? What can you do to become less vulnerable if a crisis event occurs when you are traveling? The answer is to take the time to pre-plan the same way protection experts do. Following a few basic travel security protocols can go a long way and significantly increase your safety when you travel globally.

Situational Awareness

Everywhere you go these days, people are looking down at their cell phones and not paying attention to their immediate environment. Practicing the basics of situational awareness is the process of being cognizant of what is going on around you. Travelers must take care of themselves because, when push comes to shove, we are ultimately responsible for our safety.

My best advice is to practice being observant and aware of your surroundings to stay ahead of potential threats until it becomes a routine. For example, when I first entered my career in law enforcement, my training officer would spontaneously ask me, “if someone shot at you right now, could you communicate your exact location, what the person looks like and describe what the threat was?” I cannot tell you how much that training became very useful.

This does not mean that you need to constantly be paranoid or neurotic everywhere you go or at every moment of the day. However, when traveling, you may be in an unfamiliar area with unfamiliar people. The best advice is to trust your instincts, be cognizant of people around you and where you are at any given moment.

This should sound familiar to you because you practice this every time you drive your car. You choose which route you will take based on the flow of traffic, time of day, etc.

If something does not seem right, chances are, they are not. Consider the following when developing your potential action plans:

  • Where am I? What is the area like around me?

Evaluation: When entering a public place, scan the area and identify exits and note obstacles that would be in your way if you needed to escape from the area quickly. For example, whenever I enter a restaurant, I take notice of the exits and try to choose a seat with my back to the wall so I can see who enters the area.

  • Are the people around me acting in a normal manner? What is their behavior?

Evaluation: Before people commit acts, there are usually several advanced warning signals. Be prepared to leave the area if you see someone acting or communicating in a suspicious or hostile manner.

  • What are people around me wearing? Is their attire typical for the area or weather?

Evaluation: Is someone wearing a heavy jacket when it is 85 degrees outside? What could be concealed in the jacket?

  • Have I seen the same person or vehicle more than twice during my travel?

Evaluation: Individuals with criminal intentions engage in some form of surveillance before committing a crime or act of violence. If you scan your surroundings and see the same vehicle or person, there is a good chance you are being targeted. Recognizing this will afford you the time to take protective steps such as changing routes, locations or notifying authorities

  • What are my instincts telling me?

Evaluation: Many victims experienced a sense or feeling of danger just before an incident and chose to ignore their intuition. It is best to follow your ‘gut’ instinct. If it is wrong, you may only be inconvenienced a bit, but it is still better than being a victim. 

Being cognizant of your surroundings and having a responsive action plan will greatly reduce the chances of becoming a victim and allow you to help others when it is needed the most.

Mexico Drug Trade Organizations

April 6th, 2017 Comments off

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By 2016, we saw Mexico’s large drug trade organizations (DTOs) splinter due to the arrest and deaths of many key leaders and gang members. Security experts thought that this level of fragmentation would continue to occur within drug cartel gangs throughout Mexico during the year. Many felt that this fragmentation would lead to fewer cartel-on-cartel battles that would result in reduced murder rates throughout the country.

While the government has seen successes in the removal of some of the most wanted criminals and DTO leaders, many of the DTOs have split-up and entered into other illegal enterprises which has caused increased violence as they compete for territory across much of the country.

Although there was hope for reduced murders, the fact is that 2016 homicide rates were substantially higher, even reaching their highest levels since 2012. Large DTOs and small criminal gangs aggressively engage in bloody battles for control in many states throughout Mexico. For example, cities like Tijuana, Juarez, Veracruz and even Acapulco have experienced significant increases in murder rates.

As crime groups split into smaller, more compact, regional entities, there was a significant exception. The Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) is a relatively new organization that appeared on the DTO scene in Tijuana in the past two years. CJNG initially joined the remnants of the Arellano Felix Organization, which dominated Tijuana before the Sinaloa cartel gained control there. The group then formed an alliance with the Sinaloa Federation in 2014.

The CJNG relationship with the Sinaloa group did not continue, however. When the cartel started to gain a foothold on smuggling operations in Tijuana and Mexicali, CJNG began working with the La Linea and Juarez cartel to take over drug trafficking routes in the Sinaloa territory that also included the Juarez-El Paso, Texas border crossing. By mid-2015, CJNG appeared to have become a dominant factor in many parts of Mexico’s ten states with a growing influence in other areas.

Even though there was initially a reduction in violence and homicides after President Enrique Peña Nieto took office with his promise to restore law and order, CJNG’s rapid and violent growth (including Eastern Europe, China, and North Africa) has contributed to the significant increase in homicides throughout Mexico.

CJNG and other criminal organizations continue to be very successful in exploiting governments, financial institutions, technology capabilities and global expansion strategies. With the incentive to supply the U.S. market demand by importing a stunning $64 billion worth of illegal drugs every year, it is easy to see how power shifts can quickly change.

The fragmentation of DTOs in Mexico will continue to present serious challenges in addressing complex transnational counterdrug operations in 2017. Foreign and American companies operating there have not been immune to criminal elements in the past. It would be wise for businesses to conduct not only vulnerability assessments to safeguard employees, facilities, and assets but to incorporate a comprehensive travel security management program in planning for 2017 and beyond.

 

Technology Trends – What It Means for Private Security

February 21st, 2017 Comments off

Having worked in the protection and security industry for over 40 years, I am beginning to see an evolutionary change in the way these services are delivered as a result of technology enhancements.

When I completed my military service during the Viet Nam era, my first job was with a major computer entity in the late 1960s. This was when we saw tremendous achievements in technology where great minds created things you could not imagine living without today. These innovations included such things as the computer mouse, the world’s first video game console, dynamic random access memory, laser beams and the Unix computer operating system.

As I entered into my law enforcement career, I was fortunate to be a part of a paradigm shift from laborious manual processes and paper files stuffed into file cabinets to computer-aided-dispatch, automated vehicle locator systems and mobile data terminals in police units.  I have seen technology increasingly facilitate security services with GPS applications for protection details, computerized risk intelligence data analysis and enhanced wireless video/alarm systems.

Over the next decade, technology will automate routine cognitive work. Technologies such as genomics, nanotechnology, and robotics will take center stage. We have already seen how popular consumer technologies are such as robots, drones, and virtual reality and they have been slowly crossing over into the security industry over the past few years.

So, what does this technology trend mean for the security industry? While I do not think robots will ever replace humans altogether, the future does look like there will be an increased blend of robotics, data, and humans. You can augment a security or protection officer with technology but not necessarily replace them.

Robots that are equipped with sensors to detect people, objects, temperature changes or unexpected noises can help mitigate risk, increase security officer safety and cost less.

More and more start-up companies are developing robotic solutions. They are focused on building more human-like robots that can interact with humans rather than just capture data or be a physical deterrent. Currently, robotics is best used in environments with minimal human interactions. However, this will change as technology becomes more advanced.

Another trend is how virtual reality technology is changing the way we train police officers, security agents and even the general public for critical incidents or emergencies. Active shooter training simulations can be programmed for a specific training need and can capture a 3D rendering or a computer graphic image (CGI) of a wide range of environments (company office, manufacturing facility, or event venue); generate threat scenarios and take participants through active shooter training in a virtual world. This type of training can be presented in any location and on demand.

Virtual reality training for risk mitigation professionals and private sector security personnel will significantly enhance security contingency planning and response strategies. This training could also be beneficial as an annual mandatory training requirement for company employees or school campus faculty members.

Whatever the future holds, you can be sure that technology will, at a minimum, be an increasingly larger part of security contingency planning.

Mexico Gas Shortages – Challenges for Cargo Transportation

January 20th, 2017 Comments off

As we ended the Christmas holidays and entered into 2017, protesters blocked roads surrounding the Mexican and U.S. border due to the dramatic gas price hikes in Mexico. Some protesters burnt tires while others turned violent as businesses were looted and ransacked, and fuel delivery trucks were hijacked and destroyed. Over a thousand people, including police officers, were arrested during the first week of January alone.

The gas price announcement was made public on the first of January and called for the drastic adjustment of fuel prices to real market value rather than the significantly lower gas prices historically established through previous governmental gas subsidies. The news broke just as long lines were forming at gas stations, as the national oil company (Pemex) was unable to supply fuel due to oil refining problems and shortages. Many felt that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Protests, now termed ‘gasolinazo’, have spread dramatically while truck and taxi drivers have joined angry citizens to block main highways into Mexico City, causing transportation companies and trucking companies to cancel service. The owner of a major Mexican gas station entity has warned officials that it may have to close all of its gas stations due to security concerns.

In addition to fuel price issues, fuel shortages have drastically affected the economy of Mexico. With the increased demand, there has been widespread fuel theft by organized crime groups and breaks in supply chains.

All of these factors have a direct impact on companies operating and transporting products and goods from Mexico into the U.S. I have personally seen a significant increase from corporate clients requesting escort security, real-time route planning and GPS monitoring for cargo transportation to safeguard their trucks from protester demonstrations or hijackings.

The cost of transportation will increase. However, the concern on the minds of many government officials and corporate executives is how fuel hikes will affect the availability and price of food. It will cause a serious problem if the cost of living dramatically outweighs a minimum wage worker’s ability to meet their basic needs.

Those companies operating in Mexico with in-country or cross-border transportation requirements must place a priority on re-evaluating their security contingency plans and risk mitigation procedures in light of increased fuel prices and economic anxiety. The responsible solution will be for these companies to partner with trusted risk mitigation professionals who have a proven track record in conducting vulnerability assessments and the necessary resources to provide long-term travel risk management solutions throughout Mexico

 

 

 

Proactive vs. Reactive Corporate Security

October 20th, 2016 Comments off

During a recent client meeting, the CEO of a medical devices company informed me that he and two other top executives were going to travel to a moderate to high-risk country for important business. Since we deal with risk mitigation and have significant experience in travel risk management and responding to corporate global security issues, the executive asked me for my option on the matter.

I told the CEO that a risk vulnerability assessment of the country would be a good starting point. From there, a travel security and proactive emergency response plan could be developed specific to their travel itinerary. When I presented the cost estimate to conduct a proper travel risk assessment and provide response solutions, the subject was put on the ‘back burner’.

Having served in the law enforcement and private security industry for many years, it was another example of a recurring theme for average citizens and business executives alike. When weighing the cost of proactive safety measures against a potential threat that could have a dramatic outcome for the parties involved, the decision is often made to defer security needs until something happens.

In today’s world, companies conduct business in a global environment that can create real risk. International companies have to deal with potential threats to their overseas business travelers. Companies operating in politically volatile areas may be subject to local or regional conflicts or even terrorist activities that can cause a disruption in business or worse, create physical and personal security issues and liability concerns when it comes to duty of care obligations.

It does not matter if a company is a small local shop or a major international business, management must remain cognizant of potential threats and risk facing the organization. Risk refers to external danger, such as threatening behavior exhibited by an employee or ex-employee, a criminal threat against a company, a terrorist act, threats against an executive or a natural disaster to a facility.

Many decision makers often think that a potential risk is not that significant or that they will not be the ones victimized. As a result, they make up excuses to justify not spending the money on the remote ‘possibility’ that an incident would occur. Then, once a major security incident happens, these companies very quickly realize they are forced into a costly and time-consuming ‘reactive’ mode to deal with the problem.

The following are some common elements related to those who find themselves unprepared to deal with a critical incident or security related event:

  1. Putting off setting up proper security response until an event or incident has occurred.
  2. Establishing a minimum (or no) level of security defense instead of finding a more proactive posture and response to an event.
  3. Reluctance to bring in industry professionals who can evaluate potential risks and mitigate negative outcomes.
  4. A management mindset that the company can handle the problem themselves or with untrained in-house resources.
  5. Maintaining a ‘reactive’ response mentality.

Reactive Security

The approach to reactive security is to respond to past or current incidents rather than anticipate future threats. Whenever a company becomes a victim of a threat, management determines the level of threat, the level of damage and then installs measures to address the threat. The problem is that this leaves a huge gap as it opens the door for a wide range of vulnerabilities and does not provide for an effective response plan when it may be needed the most.

Many security companies support this style because it is easy to implement and provides a short-term answer for clients.

Proactive Security

Proactive security is a more complex process that requires logical and rational skill sets to address threats and prevent major incidents before they happen. Preventative measures taken by a company to anticipate potential situations can save them from experiencing devastating events that can lead to crippling losses. Some companies are employing proactive security procedures on both their physical assets and their sensitive data, such as intellectual property and customer records. As a part of this approach, many of these companies are hunting for hackers.

Concerning protective services, the key to a successful protection program is deeply embedded in its proactive work. While strong tactical skills and operational knowledge are necessary, relying on them alone would be a mistake. It is much more cost-effective and safer to proactively detect and resolve potential threats than to wait for them to occur and be forced to react to them as they happen.

A proactive security services provider will conduct a thorough risk assessment to determine any unique risks for the specific client(s) or entity. The security professional will develop a risk profile during the assessment analysis process to identify threats, risks, and vulnerabilities. Findings from this profile will then be used to conduct on-going intelligence and threat monitoring operations to ensure that any possible threats can be identified and neutralized. These activities fall under the umbrella of a larger client-specific program consisting of a wide range of risk management and crisis response strategies.

Those who participate in proactive security will find that this is a fundamental element in developing an effective and efficient contingency and response plan. When it comes to safety and security, being proactive is the key. Waiting for the next emergency is costly and a bad recipe for disaster.

Facing Security Threats in 2016

September 23rd, 2016 Comments off

Not long after the September 11th attacks on U.S. soil, our President delivered his strategy to Congress that outlined a response plan to the deadly terrorist acts that shook the very foundation of our homeland security in America.

Fifteen years after the tragic events that took innocent lives, many of the President’s response plans have been successfully implemented against those so-called ‘Islamic extremists’. These heroic efforts have resulted in an America that is safer than it was before the 2001 September 11 attack.

In spite of these achievements, however, the battle still goes on against the now global network of violent anti-western jihadist groups with an army of thousands of trained fighters’ determined on carrying out terrorist attacks and threatening the personal security of every man, woman, and child in any given city.

According to Richard Clark, Presidential advisor and former National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism for the United States, “The threat is actually worse: it has metastasized and spread geographically. Today there are probably 100,000 people in various terrorist groups around the world, and that is much larger than anything we had 15 years ago”.

According to Wikipedia, 1,294 events classified as ‘terrorist incidents’ took place globally thus far in 2016 (this number includes attacks by violent non-state actors for political motives). The attacks initiated by ISIS extremists working either in small groups or ‘lone wolf’ scenarios attributed to 11 U.S. city attacks (Jan to Sept 19, 2016) and four attacks (New Jersey, New York, Minnesota) in September alone.

These threats occur on an almost daily basis and are not just aimed at large cities. As we continue to conduct business throughout the world or plan for vacation travel, there is an even greater need to increase our personal security and have a contingency plan in place to enhance our safety and security should an incident or event occur.

When investigating companies that provide crisis response or personal travel assistance, it would be wise to identify one that is reliable in providing the following services:

  • Reasonable cost
  • Tailored to your travel needs
  • 24/7 dedicated crisis response center
  • Travel advisories
  • Medical assistance/evacuation
  • Crisis response for terrorism-criminal violence, kidnap for ransom, disappearance, blackmail/extortion, political threat, hijacking, wrongful detention and natural disasters

To learn more about travel risk management, take a look at http://www.focuspointintl.com/what-we-do/travel-risk-management/#cap

 

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