International Security Expo: Creating public awareness
Ahead of the International Security Expo, Counter Terror Business talks to the Police National Search Centre’s Gary Fretwell about the challenges when considering the security of a crowded place and getting used to a higher level of security
You are speaking in the Protecting Crowded Places & Countering Terrorism of the show. What are you going to be discussing an how important is a pre-established plan for the searching of buildings and crowded places?
I will be discussing two topics. The first is ‘Creating search plans for your site and the value of post rooms’ and the second is ‘Searching in the Education Sector’.
Counter terrorism security planning and the implementation of searches are vital in providing a safe and secure environment for all events, while maintaining an appropriate ‘look and feel’ for the attendees, whether VIP visits, or crowded public events.
It is very important to create an atmosphere of security that does not detract from the event by being either disproportionate or oppressive, which may adversely affect the event, or the attendees. As the global terror threat continues it is both unfortunate, but highly necessary, that this type of work is carried out. The success of the current strategies and search activity have significantly reduced the opportunity for terrorist organisations to carry out pre-planned attacks.
Are there specific challenges that police and security must overcome when it comes to outdoor crowded places?
There are many challenges when considering the security of a crowded place, while specific tactics cannot be discussed, there is an element of awareness that can be put in place to assist the public in understanding why certain measures are present. There is also an acceptance that the general public have become used to a higher level of security, due to the number of terror-related incidents which have sadly taken place over recent years. Anecdotally the public will comment when security is perceived to be lacking.
It is also a vital part of the security strategy that attendees of events enter via a level of protective security measures and that these do not significantly impact on their visit. It is always challenging to achieve this, but the public’s willingness to engage with security regimes often demonstrates an increase in overall reassurance and acceptance of this approach.
There has also been a few occasions over the last few years of planned attacks on places of worship (Finsbury Park etc). As places of worship differ in size, location, layout and operation, what advice is given for the protection of these places?
The measures that are taken in the planning of counter terrorism security are broad reaching and follow a set standard of assurance. The key issue isn’t the provenance of a building, or an event but whether there is a threat present. The Police Counter Terrorism search process provides for numerous layers of protection and these are bespoke to each event by utilising appropriate intelligence sources, working with the organisers of the event to an agreed overarching strategy.