Stronger together: Collaboration is the way to fight crime in the UK by Barrie Millett

Last month marked one year since the pandemic was officially declared and the first lockdown introduced. As people and businesses changed the way they work, in some cases overnight, firms were forced to deal with the challenges of having empty buildings, while keeping their guard up to protect themselves from ‘traditional’ security issues, such as burglary and trespassing.

At Mitie, the pandemic didn’t change our core objective of keeping sites and people safe, if anything it made it even more important. And, in the spirit of the nation working as one, it encouraged us to further the way we work with other organisations – police, industry bodies and even competitors – to keep the UK running. However, as people and businesses adjusted to the new environment, the focus of our collaboration with public and private sector organisations shifted to helping fight crime, which affects people, businesses and communities throughout the nation.

Keeping the UK running

Looking back to the beginning of the pandemic, it’s fair to say that the collaboration with public and private sector organisations started as Coronavirus infections increased and the lockdown was announced. As closing a building is not as simple as just switching the lights off and closing the door, we worked closely with customers to keep their sites safe. For instance, we helped several clients roll-out technology-led security solutions to enable security teams to create and update incident reports. And, with access to real-time information more important than ever, we also deployed our Merlin app more widely, allowing our frontline colleagues to quickly access updates and guidance on how to respond to issues. Not only has this reduced the time our Security Officers spend on administrative tasks, it has also given our customers peace of mind as they’re able to keep track of what’s happening at their sites, with all the information available at the click of a button.

As restrictions changed people’s habits, our efforts also focused on ensuring we were able to help our customers deal with sudden changes in demand. This included offering more flexibility in our service delivery, for example, supporting one of our airport clients meet sudden changes in passenger numbers. Meanwhile, for one of our national supermarket customers, we mobilised over 1,000 additional Security Officers in just one weekend, to support with the increasing number of people visiting the stores and ensure their safety.

As these sudden changes in demand became more frequent, we had to step-up our recruitment drive. However, with lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures in place, we couldn’t offer training for any new Security Officers in the traditional way. So, we started working with the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to develop online accreditation courses. This partnership allowed us to continue supporting our clients’ evolving needs and to offer training opportunities for people looking to join the security sector.

With helping to keep people safe and the UK running at the top of the agenda, the security industry came together to help the government fight Coronavirus. For example, working closely with competitors, such as ISS, Serco and CBRE, we helped set-up the UK’s ‘field hospitals’, such as NHS Nightingale London, North West and Dragon’s Heart Hospital, in a matter of days. In addition, we, like many other private sector companies including G4S, Sodexo and Boots, stepped in to manage over 100 COVID-19 test centres throughout the UK to help control Coronavirus infections, preventing further spread.

Returning to work

As the lockdown restrictions were eased in September 2020, we focused on helping our customers ensure their employees could return to the workplace safely. This included creating ‘security checklists’ and working closely with other Mitie colleagues to ensure buildings were safe for employees, especially after some sites had spent weeks in hibernation. By doing this, we were able to take some of the weight off our customers’ shoulders and allowed them to focus on keeping their business running.

Working closely with our suppliers, we promptly launched thermal imaging cameras to help identify people with a potential fever. By rolling-out these fever-screening solutions alongside guidance for Security Officers on how to support people that may be showing Coronavirus symptoms, we helped reassure our customers’ staff that their employer did everything they could to reduce the risk of infection.

And, with ‘traditional’ security issues still a concern, we’re using our experience to continue helping our customers put in place measures to keep buildings secure. Indeed, in January 2020, we used our expertise to help one of our insurance clients implement crime prevention solutions across its HQ and to become the second organisation in the City of London to achieve the prestigious ‘Secured Environments’ accreditation. Although the solutions were implemented before the pandemic, having achieved this police-recognised accreditation has given our customer peace of mind that their people, property and information is safe even whilst the building is at low occupancy.

Beyond the pandemic

As people and businesses became accustomed to living with the restrictions, we committed to bridging the gap between the public and private sectors to help keep customers and communities safe. For example, using our technology-led security solutions, many of our national retail customers are now sharing information, such as criminal behaviour, anonymously. This information is then compiled into a single report sent to local Police Forces to help build cases against organised crime groups, playing our part in keeping criminals off the streets.

We know that there is more we can do, so we recently partnered with Crimestoppers, the independent charity, to ensure we’re able to continue sharing relevant information. With hundreds of customers across every sector, this collaboration is also helping create new relationships between Crimestoppers and businesses that have not worked together before. This will encourage more businesses to take part in the efforts to prevent and solve crime.

Through our partnership with Crimestoppers, we’ve also created a dedicated Rural Crime Thought Leadership Group to help tackle rural crimes, such as theft and property damage, which costs families and businesses millions of pounds every year. The Group, which also includes the Police Crime Prevention Initiatives and several organisations with a significant rural presence, is using its members’ expertise to develop strategies that help keep people and communities across the UK countryside safe.

In addition, in a joint effort with our supermarket clients, we’re using our experience and expertise to advise the National Business Crime Centre on initiatives to help fight retail crime throughout the UK, hosting the first joint workshop last month. The National Business Crime Centre will use these insights to develop and implement strategies to tackle retail crime, such as shoplifting and fraud, that costs businesses millions of pounds every year.

Collaboration in the future

From suppliers to competitors, private to public sector organisations, the Coronavirus pandemic brought the nation together and demonstrated what we can achieve when we work as one. As we move past the pandemic, it’s important that we don’t forget this lesson and continue collaborating. At Mitie, we’ve already partnered with many different organisations to help keep communities safe and, on a personal level, I’m passionate about ensuring we continue to lead the sector in collaboration.

Regardless of the shape this collaboration takes, it’s important to remember that it’s thanks to the work of our colleagues, including Security Officers and Analysts, that we’ve been able to help keep the UK running during these challenging times. By combining the best of intelligence, technology and people, the security industry will be able to tackle whatever threats are around the corner.

Barrie Millett: Barrie is Director of Assurance at Mitie Security in the UK, Chair of the West Midlands Board of Cross Sector Safety and Security Communications (CSSC) and an Advisory Board Member for the International Security Expo.

An energetic and passionate senior executive with an outstanding record of building and developing high performing teams in the operational risk and resilience arena, with an ability to develop exceptional stakeholder relationships including at government / agency level and successfully drive forward change initiatives. Barrie is a hugely respected leader in the UK security sector

Barrie Millett