Know your site-Intelligence gathering for Security staff by Michael O’Sullivan

Be in the know!

If you are presently site based, then you probably know your building like the back of your hand.

Or do you?

Familiarity and a repetitive routine will always blunt perception! You may miss things that a fresh eye would spot straight away. It happens. This is simply a normal part of being human.

A solution often lies in your outlook to the job. Remember, when you report for duty, your professionalism and attitude to your work reflects well on you personally and your employer in general, regardless of the behaviour and attitude of your colleagues. An alert and knowledgeable security officer adds immense value to an organisation. A value which is always far and above the cost of employing them.

Being familiar with your site, assignment instructions and procedures is obviously important. As a dedicated protection practitioner, you may realise that there’s much much more to the job.

  • Your site does not exist in a vacuum, so what’s physically located around you?
  • What’s going on around your site at any particular time?
  • How much do you know about the surrounding area and its issues?
  • Why is this important?

Local knowledge, combined with what you know about your site, can help you plan for both known and potential, local problems.

Forewarned is forearmed…

There is a lot you can do to mitigate any risks:

  • Start by walking out your front door, crossing the road and look at your building. This is what other people see every time they walk past. Take pictures – then look at them and see if anything draws your eye that you might miss with the naked eye.
  • Walk around the block and get familiar with the area around your site. Get trusted security colleagues to have a walk around your site and local area. Have them give you feedback and suggestions. Return the favour. You will learn a lot by looking at other sites from a security officers’ perspective.
  • Go online and see what can be discovered in the public domain about your building, your employer and location.
  • Check your post code on google maps, what can a potential criminal (or in extreme cases, terrorist) find out?
  • What can someone planning mischief at their computer half way around the world find out about your site without ever visiting it?
  • Find out details of your local Police neighbourhood team and invite them for a site visit, and a cup of tea. They are a fantastic source of local knowledge. You can also help them with local intelligence by keeping them informed of local issues.
  • Sign up for local police, local authority and CSSC alerts via email/text.
  • Get copies of local papers and publications. They are a good source of information on what is going on locally. Subscribe if possible to their digital versions so that you receive email alerts of anything going on locally.
  • Check crime statistics for your local area. Don’t be surprised if you find that anti-social behaviour is a problem. Know who to report anti-social behaviour to, local council or police, or both?
  • Keep on top of the small things. For example, report graffiti as soon as it appears. It doesn’t have to be on your site, it’s the kind of activity that can eventually lead to bigger problems. Taggers who see their ‘work’ being removed know that the area is under observation or that someone is being proactive in reporting them. The local council generally has a team that deals with graffiti. Some authorities have produced apps that allow you to report issues like graffiti, rubbish, fly tipping or fouling, from your phone. Otherwise there is generally an online option to report via their web sites.
  • Compile a contact directory of other local buildings/businesses. In particular, you are interested in contact details for local security officers. A local network of security officers can help each other out by alerting each other to problems, suspects and so on.
  • Familiarise yourself with local CCTV coverage. If a suspect runs away from your building it will be useful if you can alert responding police to CCTV that the fleeing suspect might have run past that belong to other businesses.
  • Talk to local resident/workers. Your local parking attendant and street cleaners will have excellent local knowledge that you can call on.

The flip side however is that you shouldn’t be giving out information about your site.

It is a constant source of amazement to us, just how often we find security staff sharing privileged data with complete strangers. As a Security Officer, you are in a highly privileged position. Its almost inevitable that you will be aware of information about your site or employer (if different), that you are expected to keep confidential. With the new GDPR laws now in place, this confidentiality is of extreme importance

It is recognised that employees are often the biggest risk of information loss to a business. Don’t become part of the problem!

It’s a lot to think about, and something that many would never even bother to consider, but this is the kind of thing that separates “The Professional Security Officer” from the crowd!

Another huge threat is “Hostile Reconnaissance”! It’s a big issue and we will talk about it in detail separately in a future edition of the magazine…


Search Crime Statistics by Postcode:

Understanding Hostile Reconnaissance:

Reporting crime:

If you’ve been the victim of a crime or think you have witnessed one, you should report it to the police straight away. Your information could be used to prevent other crimes and help keep other people safe. Find out about the different ways of reporting a crime

About Michael O’Sullivan

Mike has worked in the UK security industry since 1989 following 5 years overseas in the military. He is very interested in professional standards and how they are interpreted and applied in different situations. Mike is currently writing a series of CPD courses and looking to network with security industry colleagues and other interested people, organisations and businesses. He can be contacted via the TPSO website. For a more detailed bio click here…