As venues for large-scale events, and often the target for protests, riots and terrorist attacks, modern cities face changing security threats. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, cloud-based services and the ‘Internet of Things’ are increasing cities’ reliance on technology, often leaving them increasingly vulnerable to security threats and breaches.
Leading the way in utilising ‘smart city’ technology in the UK is Glasgow, which has spent £24m over the past two years on transforming the city into a world-leading ‘city of the future.’ Now, the city benefits from self-adjusting street lights, wireless high-definition CCTV, automatically-adjusting traffic lights to reduce traffic and bottlenecks and dedicated apps to highlight walking tours, cycle routes and points of interest.
A developing threat
For these smart cities, where the local infrastructure – from traffic lights to utilities – is largely automated and networked, security vulnerability is especially apparent, and is a problem not just in the UK but on a global scale. In an interview with the New York Times, the United States’ security expert Cesar Cerrudo revealed that through weaknesses such as software bugs and lack of encryption, he has found ways to control traffic lights, tweak speed-limit signs and alter traffic sensors.
Closer to home, Network Rail has acknowledged the threat to its new high-tech signalling system, following a warning by Government advisor, Professor David Stupples, who claims that the new system – which dictates critical safety information and will eventually control all of Britain’s trains – could leave the rail network exposed to cyber-attacks and potentially allow hackers to cause a serious crash.
Commenting on the increasing risk to cities from cyber-attack, Mike O’Neill, Chairman of the British Security Industry Association’s Specialist Services Section, said: “The key challenge that strikes me is that with the drive for connectivity – and interconnectivity – comes a lot more vulnerability. [Threats could come from] hackers… terrorist groups or government actors and their proxies, who may be seeking to cause asymmetric confusion. If you think about a city that has interconnectivity, the vulnerability is huge, so that is one of the things I think we need to be much more aware of going forward.”
So, with modern cities facing a growing number of threats, what can those responsible for safety and security do to prepare and protect our urban centres?
A fresh approach
Collaboration and joined-up thinking between police and the private security industry is key to ensuring the long-term safety and security of British cities, and building a closer relationship between the two is the focus of a new project being developed across London.
The Police and Security (PaS) Group Initiative was launched at London’s City Hall in December 2014, with the aim of becoming a ‘critical friend’ to the Met Police in developing mutually effective collaboration with the private sector. The key ‘pillars’ to this activity include building effective collaboration, overcoming barriers and sharing best practice between the Metropolitan Police, private security suppliers, existing crime reduction partnerships and local businesses. Partners involved in the project include the Metropolitan Police, the British Security Industry Association, London First, the Security Industry Authority and the City Security and Resilience Networks (CSARN).
So what is PaS and what can it achieve? The list of attendees and presentations at its launch on 1 December at City Hall gave an indication. It was attended by the MPS regional borough Senior Points of Contact (SPOC)s for business crime, and a wide range of both private security providers and security managers who together represent the Private Security ‘capability’ in London, all of which have potential to collaborate closely with the police.
There were statements of intent and commitment from the Deputy Mayor and Commander Simon Letchford, who leads on Business Crime for the MPS, speaking on behalf of Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey. Commander Letchford said: “The Metropolitan Police Service has a strong track record for delivering policing and security at major events in London, which is one of the safest capital cities in the world. Effective partnership working is key and we are committed to further improving the way we work with the private security industry to build upon this success.
“This initiative provides practical measures aimed at improving the working relationship between the police and private security, while sharing good practice across London to reduce crime and keep London safe for all those who live, visit and work in the capital.”
This project builds upon the growing trend for police and industry partnerships that has developed in the past few years. With a focus on training, Project Griffin was the first significant engagement between the police and the private security sector, whilst more recently, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games prompted further demand for collaboration.
The Games were the catalyst for the Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications Project (CSSC), which was developed to cascade vital security and safety information across the capital in real time. The CSSC project has become a lasting legacy of the Games and is still in operation today, whilst its format was successfully replicated for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Building on Olympic success
Following the Olympics, consideration was given by the BSIA and the Met Police to coordinating a longer-term programme for collaboration, however this received added impetus following the publication in summer 2014 of the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC)’s Business Crime Strategy, which calls for police, businesses, local authorities and others to work together to build confidence to prevent and cut business crime. Setting out clear, deliverable plans to achieve this is a key requirement of the Business Crime Strategy, an objective that is mirrored by the PaS Initiative itself.
The Business Crime Strategy is based around requirements from all parties, known within the strategy as the key ‘asks’. London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, said: “My ask of businesses under the MOPAC Business Crime Strategy is to build on the legacy of the excellent relationships built in 2012 between the Metropolitan Police Service and the private security sector. The PaS Project will provide a focal point for engagement for building on what works.”
Having established itself as a business-led initiative designed to simplify and improve collaboration, coordination, communication, trust and feedback between the police and private sector, the PaS Group Initiative launched an initial consultation in January 2015 to gauge the perceptions of all organisations involved in operational collaboration, to ensure that PaS focused on the most important issues. The consultation received 197 responses, which came from a broad set of participants, and both the results and the next steps that PaS will take are due to be launched within the coming weeks.
Another initial step taken by the Group was to map existing local and national collaboration projects to improve coordination and identify best practice. Although currently focused on the London area, there is scope for the PaS Initiative to expand to other cities across the UK, facilitating a nationwide network of communication and best practice, essential in empowering cities to prepare and protect themselves against the growing security risks they fact.
Following the initial consultation, PaS has now established three key workstreams, focused on Effective Collaboration, Information & Communications and Standards & Training, which are seeking to provide better clarity and simple guidance in these areas. The project has also benefited from fantastic support from the Met Police Business Hub, who are starting to publish a regular newsletter to subscribers.
It is the PaS Initiative’s core aim that building effective collaboration will contribute significantly towards creating a safer and more secure London, and that the blueprint created in the nation’s capital might subsequently be rolled out across the UK.
Any interested parties can find out more or register to participate in the Police & Security Group, or receive regular updates, by going to: www.bsia.co.uk
Visitors to IFSEC International 2015 (ExCeL, London, 16 – 18 June 2015) can visit the Safe Cities Academy to hear Geoff Zeidler speak on The Police and Security Initiative: Collaboration to Increase Public Safety and Reduce Crime (Wednesday 17 June, 11:00). Mike O’Neill will also be speaking on 17th June from 15:00 on Security Risk Management Strategies for Safer Cities.