The turn of the year is supposedly the time for new resolutions, and it is indeed a quieter (?) time, for a week or two at least, which allows for some longer-term thinking before the return of the rush of day to day stuff.
If I had to point to just two articles for you to pay most attention to – depending on what your line of business is – I would point you first to Vernon Rapley, security head at the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington, on page 34. I was struck and I know others in the room were by his talk to the last Security TWENTY event of 2016 at Heathrow the other week, and although the details aren’t all as clear in my mind, I did get them down on paper in good time for you.
If I understand Vernon right – you will have to read him for yourself, and indeed on the V&A website you can listen to a podcast by him on library crime – security does not have to be ugly, or physically get in the way of welcoming people to a museum (or a hospital or anywhere that has to let in visitors daily). I might add that urban commentators have been critical of security – the human guards and the security architecture – for reinforcing a ‘security siege’. Vernon is asking a profound question that matters to all of us, and our children, not only practitioners of security; what sort of society do we want to work towards? Everyone has a choice; we can ramp up security, and inconvenience people, as the owners of the UK Security Expo did last month when the queues to go in, or to be exact to go through the x-ray screening and to get your ticket printed out, stretched for 100 yards or more, itself a security risk. At least the organisers apologised afterwards. Yet another, larger security event in another part of London, IFSEC 2016 at Excel in Docklands, did not have x-ray screening, and people could print their own badges; if that created a higher security risk, it did not seem to matter.
For the other important trend, see from page 41, a collection of articles on business security in London (and Brighton, on page 44). The police are more welcoming than ever to private security doing their bit for overall city security – encouraging guard forces to stake ownership of public space on the threshold and even outside their sites. (Pictured, although I admit you cannot very well see, is a security officer at the National Gallery, doing precisely that on a weekday morning, standing at the threshold of the gallery, at the bottom of the steps, facing Trafalgar Square, viewing what is going on. This is becoming good practice in museums and galleries more generally – see page 36.)
In parts of central London, on the Strand for example and Oxford Street, you are as likely to see – or if you are a retailer or tenant, deal with – a contract security officer hired through the business improvement district as a police officer; indeed the BID officer is feeding the police with data, that the police (and this has been true for many years) simply wouldn’t have, but for the contracted officer. Frankly while I kept up with developments in BIDs for a while, I have fallen out of date. One excuse is that they might not be thick on the ground, yet, and might never be, because after all BIDs are paid for by a tax on businesses within the BID area, and businesses could always complain that they have already paid once for services, so why pay a second time. Fair comment, but if you want something doing about aggressive beggars (page 41), that police seem unable or willing to do anything about, it’s business bodies – and to be exact, hard-working and dedicated managers making a difference – that are doing the work. London as a special case, a world-city, may be the exception. Although I did report in autumn 2015 on the work done in Weston super Mare. BIDs have potential, shall we say, to be a security force on the ground, handling shop theft, fly-tipping and the like – things that really hurt businesses – while police do the higher-level, high-speed stuff.