An uncannily shared point about sharing

by Mark Rowe

At each of two webinars yesterday afternoon, two men of different backgrounds made the same point, uncannily, writes Mark Rowe.

The first was Prof Martin Gill, as part of the National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS) annual conference, online. Before he chaired a panel, Martin ranged over the 70 OSPAs thought leadership webinars that has come to be a remarkable chain of panel discussions twice a week since March 31. He closed with a story that he has told to security audiences before; about something he was told during his work – stretching to four decades now – of talking, as an academic criminologist, to offenders in prison.

Martin was on his way out of a prison, after interviewing fraudsters. From a prison cell he was told a story by a man who could not be interviewed as the man was denying his offence. On ‘the outside’, the man had been in charge of response to fraud in his organisation. One of the difficulties he had was getting others interested in countering fraud. One part of the organisation would not share information with the other. The employer was reluctant ever to take action against employees who did fraud; at most, they would lost their jobs. The organisation was not prepared to report the crimes to the police, and even if they did, again they could not get any action from police.

But the man’s point, as he told Martin: “And then I came to prison, and in prison we all share information in here,” about who the easy targets are, how the prisoners got caught (in other words, how to avoid getting caught the next time, when released), and about all sorts of offences, not only the ones the prisoners were convicted for.

“Don’t you think it’s ridiculous,” the man in the prison cell told Martin Gill, “the outside world isn’t collaborating effectively, and on the inside world they are doing it, so effectively, the odds are turned in their favour.”

Martin Gill added to the NAHS-OSPAs audience: “Therein we have a problem.”

About an hour later – the two webinars overlapped – Paul Davies, head of loss prevention and security at the department store chain Selfridge’s, was talking to a Resilience First event about economic crime; about the retailer’s response to crime risk in 2020. Paul, a loss prevention specialist, described how the retailer has had to react to March lockdown and trading purely digitally; then re-opening, albeit with footfall in cities reduced, and besides stores not being able to take in as many customers as pre-pandemic, due to social distancing rules; and then this month’s second lockdown (although the Oxford Street – pictured – flagship store’s food hall is open daily, and customers can use a ‘click and collect’; service.

Paul closed with what he called a rhetorical question: “How do we as businesses and not just retailers become more aware of new trends and threats in UK crime. When I speak to industry experts and other businesses, it seems we all experience similar patterns. But how to become proactive in shared intelligence to support one another; also to hinder and restrict the criminal organisations? It certainly feels like we could be doing more.”

More in the December 2020 print edition of Professional Security magazine.

More details

You can freely listen back to Prof Martin Gill’s talks and all past OSPAs webinars at For the business membership body Resilience First’s webinars, visit its knowledge hub.

Next week is International Fraud Awareness Week, as arranged by the US-based counter-fraud association ACFE. Visit

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