We have all seen dramatic TV shows and movies depicting criminal masterminds plotting to target banks and other high level secured facilities by timing down to the second when guards patrol, the number of guards and how long it takes to get from one point to another, without being detected. It makes for great entertainment, but chances are, there is not a great likelihood that any given facility is going to be targeted by well-funded, well trained criminal operatives. That said, there is some truth to the drama in that criminal or terror enterprises, individually or in groups, conduct surveillance to enhance their ability to defeat security measures and raise the probability of success in their endeavors. It is incumbent on security professionals to learn effective patrol techniques and methods, in addition to other security measures to defeat and deter targeting by criminal or terrorist elements.
Effective Patrol Techniques
What do criminals look for?
In choosing a target, criminals and terrorists look for opportunity, ease of entry or attack, exit routes and the security measures utilized by the potential target. Most non-government sponsored terrorists and criminal enterprises do not have the funding or training to deploy sophisticated, large surveillance teams to gain intelligence to facilitate their attack. Surveillance will fall to an individual or small group to look for weak points in security measures. They look for patterns of behavior of vulnerable non security employees, as well as patterns in the conduct of security personnel. Good examples are shift changes, number of security personnel, patterns of patrolling and security checks, as well as responses to alarms or suspicious activity.
The intelligence gained through surveillance includes how many people are present at a given time, where security personnel deploy from, whether security personnel are separated and exposed to potential neutralization, whether security is armed, predictable timing and routes of all personnel, entrance and exit “choke points”, as well as availability of back up or law enforcement assistance. Little things like favorite coffee shops or meeting places to turn in paperwork and sequencing of security patrol checks, especially when security involves one or two individuals provides lookouts opportunities to know where security is and isn’t. Habits like smoking, coffee breaks, regular calls to children or spouses, fueling vehicles and other daily routines all provide intelligence for attackers to exploit.
My Field Experience
As a patrol deputy, varying routines was an important part of our patrol objective. Supervisors would sometimes meet with individual officers to pick up reports, other times meeting in groups at varying times of the shift. During muster, we’d discuss scenarios such as criminals setting off alarms as a diversion to draw officers away from a target area or to foster complacency in building checks after false alarms and the use of lookouts to alert compatriots to proceed with entry immediately after patrol units left an alarm call. New tactics used by criminals were disseminated to patrol officers and were utilized in additional training. Policies were formulated to minimize the number of patrol units from a given district taking breaks at the same location to ensure units were still patrolling each area and ready to respond. Coordination of shift changes, vehicle fueling or replacement when broken down was all configured to minimize predictability and prevent lapses in units ready to respond to a given area.
An important component of officer safety training was developing awareness of potential ambushes, vehicle sabotage, utilization of cover(stops bullets) and concealment(obscures position) when patrolling both on foot and in a vehicle. We learned to vary approaches to alarms, such as parking at a distance and walking up to do building checks when sufficient back up was available. We would roll windows down to listen and observe on the way to calls for service, watching for potential lookouts and other surveillance activity or utilization of diversionary tactics as a vital component of effective patrol technique. Thoroughness and attention to detail were also part of the training and some supervisors utilized novel approaches to developing those qualities by hiding objects at various businesses after hours to test patrol officers on their building checks at random times and places. It definitely kept officers on their toes and challenged them to incorporate thoroughness and attentiveness to their patrol activities.
Facility Security-Effective Patrol Techniques and Countermeasures
Just as criminals and terrorists utilize routine activities by security, security patrols can also observe surveillance activities conducted by those intending harm. Security personnel must learn the normal activities of a facility and surrounding areas such as normal traffic flow, flow of people into and out of the facility, as well as the surrounding areas. Looking at the patrol area from an attacker’s viewpoint provides information to focus on areas that the individual or group could utilize for surveillance or attack. Entrances and exits of a facility, weaknesses in structure, lighting, security systems, cameras and response times are all areas of interest for surveillance activities. Most of this requires visual observation which exposes that person or group to detection.
Security patrols should look for unfamiliar vehicles parked in areas allowing clear viewing of facility activities or configuration. Unfamiliar people seen that do not fit into normal flows, hanging around aimlessly or appear to be communicating with others, using binoculars or night vision goggles, filming or taking pictures while observing activities, especially when observed on more than one occasion frequently give away lookouts and surveillance teams. Body language such as appearing nervous, looking around, using hand signals to communicate with others and avoiding eye contact with security personnel are indicators of surveillance and potential targeting. Planning ahead to respond to surveillance include utilizing cover and concealment, unpredictability of direction, time and contact with suspicious people or activities will depend on the individual facility, security personnel and law enforcement. Planning should take into account the potential for diversion tactics to move security personnel out of an effective response to a vulnerable area.
Security patrol planning would not be complete without the cooperation, coordination and effective communication with non-security personnel, especially administrative personnel tasked with oversight of the facility. Preparing for diversion tactics and other neutralization of security personnel through alerting key personnel in the facility to be prepared to observe vulnerable areas away from the security patrol location, calling for additional back up or law enforcement and instituting lock down or other security measures helps mitigate risks of successful surveillance and attack by criminal or terrorist elements. As always, personal situational awareness, attention to detail, observational skills and multiple layers of security protocols go a long way to ensure successful outcomes in securing a facility.
Would knowing you are under surveillance change your patrol techniques? Have you been able to detect surveillance activities before your facility was targeted? Would you change your current patrol techniques? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.