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Daytime Heists, Anyone?

Very recently, SM Megamall was hit by a high-profile robbery wherein several armed men broke glass casings and took off with high-value jewelry before anyone could stop them. Only a few months back, a similar incident also hit Robinsons Galleria where again several armed suspects intercepted an ongoing money transfer and even shot it off with responding security guards. There are other increasingly similar incidents and I need not even cite those that occurred in other countries as there are enough such incidents that go around right here in our shores. Summarily describing these security breaches, they all seem to be occurring guess what, during office hours, almost as if the robbers are themselves legitimate workers eking out a living just like the rest of us. But no, these people are professional criminals who operate unlike the rest of us – outside the law with disdain. The critical question behooves itself: What then can anybody do about it?

I raise several arguments aimed towards understanding this issue so that effective strategies may be adopted by threatened stakeholders. One observation that we commonly hear about is why such threats continue despite the security systems that are already in place. The observation makes a very valid point that anyone among us in the security industry can easily relate to. After all, standard systems are so commonplace that it seems like every business establishment has guards, technical access control systems, CCTV surveillance cameras, canines, and metal detectors in place. I argue that among others, it is precisely the presence of these security systems that thinking robbers decide to rob at daytime, during office hours, when no one would suspect that such a brazen caper could even be attempted. It is precisely this no-brainer attitude by the security community that thinking robbers defy the odds and calculate that the 1% of the time that we think it can happen becomes the 99% of the time that the robbers assess that it actually can! We in the military call this the element of surprise which is a proven successful tactical maneuver among others.

A second point I wish to raise, which is also somewhat related to the first, is the oft-repeated conclusion that despite all the security systems that are in place, they are still not a guarantee that nothing untoward will occur. Remember, these systems are generally good for the 99% of potential offenders who are easily discouraged by the lack of opportunity or the presence of impediment that they perceive owing to these systems. But, they may not prove adequate to the 1% of committed offenders who will stop at nothing short of achieving their goal. Again, note the saying: ‘There is no impenetrable barrier to a determined intruder!’ Also, this 1% usually includes the professionals among criminals who have done it before, do it for a living, and have somewhat perfected the craft to an art. The 1% types are also more dangerous as they probably have seen the inside of a jail cell before, do not wish to see it again, and therefore will rather shoot it out to escape than be arrested.

Systems quality and policy implementation would be my third point. This point is the most universal of all as systems quality and policy implementation would apply to any organization anywhere. For potential targets to be hardened enough, it should be a no-brainer to point out that the security service provider be among the most competent at delivery, that the technical systems are efficient and functioning, and or that procedures are continually validated. If the vigilance exhibited by the providers that carry-out these tasks on a daily basis is there, for instance, along with an internal security culture that is above average, then the systems in place are expected to carry the day with or without a day heist!

A final point I wish to make is the role of intelligence in the security program. I wonder if SM or Robinsons has an active intelligence project. I also wonder if intelligence is an equal of security or merely a component of it. Unlike in the business of governance and public service, intelligence is usually a cost item that business corporations would rather do without. Until the lack of it begins to hurt them. Intelligence may be costly to design and implement. Its benefits are generally un-dramatic. But among the dividends it generates are: knowing what is to happen, when it is supposed to go down, and who will undertake it. In short, intelligence anticipates the specific threat so that security can effectively react to it. Without intelligence, security is purely reactive – as we saw at Megamall and Robinsons Galleria.