Top Tips to Keep You Safe at Your Next Event. You Bought the Ticket—Now What?

Recently tragedies in a variety of venues like the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Pulse Night Club in Orlando, and the Manchester Arena/Ariana Grande concert in England have shown us that awareness requires a 24/7 commitment to help us stay safe—because planning for a potential disaster is now as necessary as buying a ticket. Whether you are going to an event at a downtown park, outdoor summer concert, stadium venue, indoor arena, or smaller club, you must now add “what if” to your to-do list. We’re sharing information and strategies to increase awareness if you’re planning to attend or drop others off at an event.

Plan Before the Event

If you plan to attend a major event such as a rock concert or professional sports at a large-scale venue, you need to be prepared for many types of incidents, whether intentional, accidental, or natural. One of the most important things you can do is to familiarize yourself with the building and property and have a solid plan of action in the unlikelihood that an incident occurs. Because power outages, medical events, and acts of terrorism can happen, you need to be prepared if you’re present when they do.

Your commitment to safety begins before you set foot on the property or in the venue. From checking online for a seating diagram to familiarize yourself with entrances and exit locations, handicapped access, medical help, bathrooms, security, access to public transportation, and parking areas to monitoring social media for any negative or derogatory stories about the event, artist, or team, you can educate yourself about your surroundings—which will help you in the event of an emergency.

What to Do if an Incident Occurs

This place is probably new to you so look around and be committed to “See Something, Say Something” if you observe something happening that doesn’t seem quite right. And while you’re looking around, take note of exits and stairwells in case elevators or escalators aren’t working. A fully charged cell phone with a flashlight will help you if the power goes out and you can use a scarf or bandana to cover your nose and mouth in case the venue becomes filled with smoke or the air is otherwise compromised as well as a sling, bandage, or head cover.

If an incident occurs while you are at the event, you must remain calm so that you can listen for and follow any instructions that might be communicated over the PA system or by security personnel. Your pre-planning will help you navigate your surroundings now in order to direct your group to a safe area and away from the incident or a large crowd to avoid a possible stampede.

After you are safe, assess yourself and your party for any injuries because adrenaline driven activity can mask injuries. You should not attempt to re-enter the venue unless law enforcement directs you to move inside. Also, you should share with the authorities any pertinent information, video, or photos that might help in the subsequent investigation.

There Is No Substitute for Experience 

Our proprietary methodology for planning, constructing, and implementing event security has been designed, developed, and continues to evolve from my personal experiences in security leadership roles for the federal government with the United States Secret Service Major Events Division, where I helped secure the Super Bowl, Olympics, National Conventions, and the Presidential Inauguration. Additionally, my team’s project management background in professional sports with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, and the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) provides large-scale event security expertise.

Michael Verden, Owner and CEO of The Lake Forest Group (www.lakeforestgroup.com), is a former police officer, Director of Security for the NBA, and retired Secret Service agent with 21 years of experience protecting the President and First Lady as well as large scale events like the NATO Summit and the United Nations General Assembly. As a strategic security consulting firm, The Lake Forest Group offers you expertise in event security, stadium security, residential security, risk management, emergency preparedness, expert witness litigation, active shooter plans, executive protection, training, and medical marijuana security.

We can design an event security plan that’s right for your culture and, most importantly, protects your most valuable assets—people. Contact me, Mike Verden, Owner and CEO of The Lake Forest Group, at gmv@lakeforestgroup.com or 312.515.8747 to find out more—or share this article with anyone who needs to create a event security plan to safeguard their employees, customers, and brand.


Stadium Security Plan: Are We Safe?   

Those tasked with stadium security face challenges from a number of threats—an airborne concern from a hijacked aircraft or a drone packed with explosives or hazardous material; a ground attack carried out by a vehicle transporting a bomb or driven into a crowd of people, similar to what occurred in Charlottesville; and suicide bombers such as the stadium attack in Paris during an international soccer match with France’s president in attendance. The possibility of any of these challenges creates a complex and ubiquitous danger for stadiums and the need for a holistic stadium security plan.

Doing More with Less

What really brings success to a stadium security plan is how well the stadium operators adapt industry best practices in stadium security to your particular situation—ensuring that the security services will perform before, during, and after an incident to avoid a devastating impact on your operations. Our recommended approach to optimizing stadium security starts with a security plan that leverages the most efficient and cost-effective measures for event security, emergency management, continuity of operations, and security operations. Working together, we’ll create, enhance, and update a stadium security plan that achieves the highest level of execution and results in peak performance operations no matter what challenges your venue faces.

There’s No Substitute for Experience       

Our proprietary methodology for planning, constructing, and implementing stadium security has been designed, developed, and continues to evolve from my personal experiences in security leadership roles for the federal government with the United States Secret Service Major Events Division, where I helped secure the Olympics, National Conventions, and the Presidential Inauguration. Additionally, our team’s project management background in professional sports with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, and the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) provides large-scale event security expertise.

Haves and Have Nots

A stadium security plan begins with an on-site assessment of the venue to evaluate the resources you have and those you don’t have, including: (1) personnel security (security officers, police officers, fire fighters, guest services, paramedics, and emergency managers); (2) security technologies (intrusion detection, card readers, video surveillance, duress devices, notification systems, and communications capabilities); (3) physical security (barriers, barricades, bollards, lighting, gates, and fences); (4) emergency preparedness (emergency evacuation, lockdown, shelter-in-place, triage, and decontamination); and (5) liaison with law enforcement, fire department, and emergency medical.

When the Rubber Meets the Road

Understanding your own resources as well as those of external support services, such as the first responder community, enables stadium leadership to construct an effective stadium security plan. The plan needs to account for access control, security, safety, and enforcement of the policies and procedures that discourage unlawful activity both in the stadium and on the exterior grounds. As one of the main requirements, your security plan must clearly demonstrate succinct and measurable processes to safeguard all assets, including the people, property, and brand. It is equally important to incorporate crisis management into the stadium security plan so that specific guidelines address all hazards, such as weather, accident, or crime. In addition, when you coordinate with the public sector in contingency operations, emergency management, and incident response, among other areas, you ensure that the event participants, as well as the attendees, are not exposed to risk.

Nothing Fits Better Than a Tailor Made Plan

Because I have designed and managed security for major events in both the public and private sectors, I benchmark stadium security against comparable venues as well as industry standards and apply my knowledge of best practice-based stadium security disciplines to each client’s environment. For a complete picture of your stadium security profile, you can schedule a professional assessment that will evaluate the technical, physical, personnel, and procedural security measures currently in place at your venue.

You’ll find out what you’re doing well and where you’re exposed to unnecessary risk as well as receive recommendations and strategic considerations with next steps to protect critical components of your processes—especially where vulnerabilities currently exist. Also, you’ll identify what, if any, security and safety measures or systems are needed now or should be introduced at a later date.


Arena and Stadium Security Requires Protecting People, Property, and Assets

The tragic event this week in Manchester, England at an arena filled with families and children attending a concert reminds us of the evil of terrorism. The attack by a suicide bomber was Europe’s 13th terrorist incident since 2015. As ISIS claims responsibility, it calls for supporters to strike anywhere and with whatever weapons possible—vehicle, firearm, or explosive—showing us once again that this danger is real with no signs of going away. My professional experiences have taught me how to effectively plan, prepare and implement multi-disciplinary security measures to counter this threat. Remember, security has to be right all the time, but the terrorist only needs to be right once.

High Profile = High Risk   

Large-scale venues, such as an arena in Manchester, stadium in Paris, or major league ballpark in the U.S., are prime targets due to the high volume of people in a condensed area. A terrorist who wants to inflict as much damage as possible to numerous victims is drawn to these types of facilities, especially a high-profile site like an iconic sports venue. Protecting buildings and properties this big is no easy task but risk can be controlled and lives can be protected with the right combination of knowledge, experience, and resources. The key to safeguarding a large piece of real estate is the strategic placement of security assets, which can only be learned from real world experience.          

Your Plan Needs to be Tailored, Customized, Reasonable, and Effective

After years of protecting large-scale operations and major events on a global stage with both the Secret Service and as a security consultant, I understand that a large-scale venue security plan requires appropriate countermeasures to mitigate the various types of hazards and ensure the safety of both the people attending the event and the operation of the venue. With that understanding, a security plan needs to be uniquely tailored to the environment and culture of the property. The Lake Forest Group’s security planning follows a developed and still evolving process based on the 35+ years of experience in law enforcement, security, legal, and human resources of our team.

The Six Pillars of Large-Scale Venue Security Design You Must Consider

The design, creation, and implementation of a large-scale venue security plan begins with an on-site assessment of the site to evaluate risk in six crucial areas:

  1. Personnel security: chain-of-command, manpower, staffing, posts, and supervision
  2. Systems technology: alarms, access control, cameras, monitoring, X-ray screening, metal detectors, and command center capabilities
  3. Physical security: fencing, gates, barriers, locks, windows, and hardware
  4. Processes: security policies, operational protocols, access control, parking, transportation, player/performer protection, crowd control, and guest management
  5. Emergency preparedness: emergency management, incident response, lockdown, shelter, evacuation, and relocation
  6. Liaison with critical third parties and first responders
Leveraging All of the Assets and Resources of the Federal Government

Given the current nature of the terrorist threat and the severity of the consequences associated with many potential attack scenarios, the private sector will need to look to organizations within the U. S. government for intelligence information at critical times. In order to offer you maximum protection, The Lake Forest Group works in collaboration with international, federal, state, and local entities to convene and schedule meetings; develop, write, and disseminate security plans, emergency management procedures, continuity of operations plans, roles and responsibilities of agencies and private sector partners, and counter surveillance plans, among others; and provide daily on-the-ground assistance to meet our client’s goals and objectives and produce a safe and positive environment for participants, guests, employees, and all in attendance.

A Preventative Protective Security Methodology Balances Ends, Ways, and Means 

Ultimately, successful security planning and event management focus on a preventative protective security methodology that balances ends, ways, and means, using the appropriate personnel to identify and assess targeted threats and create enhanced countermeasures to mitigate risk. The Lake Forest Group has provided trusted counsel and thought leadership to our clients by successfully securing professional sports and collegiate stadiums and arenas, corporate offices, industrial plants, commercial properties, government venues, entertainment sites, medical facilities, and academic institutions across the country and around the globe.


Turning Soft Targets Hard: Countering Terrorism

A Chicago native with more than 35 years in the fields of law enforcement and security, I have traveled the world as a federal agent and professional security expert. For the Secret Service, I conducted security advances for the President of the United States in South America, Asia, Europe, and Australia. My security consultancy work has taken me to Qatar, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, China, and South Africa. I have seen and learned a lot over the years, but one of the most dramatic paradigm shifts I have observed during this time span is how the intended targets of terrorists have changed. The recent tragedies in Paris and Orlando show us that any venue with a gathering of people is susceptible to an act of terrorism.

The Threat is Real

We can no longer ignore the fact that homegrown terrorists live in our country as was unfortunately proven by the recent Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando. Acknowledging that this threat is real and at our doorstep is the most important step to transforming your venue from vulnerable to defensible against an attack. Whether the building is large or small, the number one security and safety concern is controlling access to the property. Access control is not only about people entering the site, but it also focuses on how vehicles, mail, packages, deliveries, and equipment gain access. Different types of people—residents, employees, contractors, clients, customers, visitors, and service personnel—can be separated by their respective reasons for requiring access to the site. You will not be able to safeguard the property if access cannot be controlled and managed.

Emergency Preparedness is One of the Most Effective Counterterrorism Measures

A truly holistic approach to protecting people and property offers specifically tailored measures to control entry. In today’s world, explosives, for instance, can enter a building on a person, in a vehicle, or through the mail so you need to be aware of how this threat can gain access in these different ways. Security- and safety-related policies and procedures, such as visitor management and mail screening, can also assist in mitigating this risk. One of the most effective counterterrorism measures, emergency preparedness—with a well-designed and continuously trained emergency evacuation plan—ensures that all occupants know what to do and where to go in an emergency. Additionally, a commitment to continued education is essential to preparedness. Dissemination of information is also critical during a crisis, such as sharing the location of the intruder, or if the situation has been resolved, communicating that the area is safe.

There is No Silver Bullet

Since terrorists have attacked schools, churches, restaurants, and nightclubs, they appear to place no value on human life. If they have assaulted these sites, they can also strike a commercial or residential building. While there is no silver bullet or panacea to eliminate the threat of an act of terrorism, we can educate ourselves on the basic security fundamentals that need to be followed, such as identifying and understanding the physical, technical, procedural, and personnel aspects of your venue Based on my experiences of protecting such high profile events as the Democratic National Convention and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, I know how important a well-designed and comprehensive security posture can be to protect against the danger of terrorism, an active shooter, or intruder. Simply put, your security and safety plans can save lives and safeguard property. Just be sure to partner with someone with the experience to show you how and don’t let cost and inconvenience keep you from building a best-in-class operation based on industry best practices.


Welcome To Safe University (SAFE U)!

YOUR PARTNER IN CAMPUS SECURITY

Safe UniversityWhen the safety of your people is one of your top priorities and your college’s reputation is one of your most valuable assets, you’ll do whatever it takes to provide a safe environment for your students, staff, and visitors. High profile incidents such as mass shootings and sexual attacks at several universities have put the topic of campus crime in the public eye today more than ever before.

Conscientious and well-informed university personnel know that adequate staffing, multi-disciplinary involvement, sufficient resources, appropriate policies, and external support make these incidents less likely to occur—and make leaders more prepared if they do. Safe University (Safe U) partners with you to supplement and enhance your existing security programs by tailoring best practices to your unique situation and campus culture

HOW SAFE U BENEFITS YOUR SCHOOL AND YOUR PEOPLE
Safe U partners with you to create a safe campus environment by ensuring current policies, procedures, personnel, physical measures, technology, and training are at an industry best practice level. Through coordination and integration for preventative security, emergency preparedness, and incident response, Safe U identifies the steps necessary to ensure that students, faculty, visitors, family members, guests, and friends are not exposed to harm.
Our Safe U program specifically tailors best practices in these areas to your unique environment:
• Processes: policies, procedures, plans, and programs
• Personnel: management, police, public safety, and security
• Technology: cameras, access control, alarms, notifications, and call/assistance station boxes
• Emergency preparedness: weather, fire, power, and intruder
• Education awareness and training: classes, exercises, and web-based
• Event planning and management: school-sponsored functions
• Background screening and drug testing: scope, pre- and post-employment
• Physical security: fences, gates, barriers, lighting, and locks
• Regulatory compliance: Title IX, Violence Against Women Act, and Clery Act
PROTECT YOUR PEOPLE, CAMPUS AND BRAND BY BENCHMARKING WITH THE BEST

Studies show that although 86% of higher educational schools have an emergency operations plan, more than 1 in 4 have not had a hazard and vulnerability assessment to develop appropriate all-hazard emergency planning. We’ll share with you knowledge gained from safeguarding global corporations, high profile individuals, major events, and campuses around the country to protect what’s most important.

ADD ANOTHER LAYER OF SAFETY THROUGH SAFE U’S OBJECTIVE REVIEW

By providing objectivity through an independent analysis of your current resources, Safe U ensures a holistic security strategy by sharing the extensive expertise of our team. G. Michael Verden, CEO and Owner of The Lake Forest Group, is a global security expert with a distinguished 21-year career with the United States Secret Service. As a Special Agent, he served on the Presidential Protective Division, Dignitary Protective Division, and Counter Assault Team and assisted in the security and protection of facilities and people for major events, including the Olympics, Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, Indianapolis 500, and the Women’s Soccer World Cup, among others. As Director of Security for the NBA, he supervised security for the NBA All-Star Game, NBA Finals, and World Basketball Championships. Mike will personally guide the Safe U program to assess and evaluate your current security needs and provide options to optimize your strategic security plan and emergency management plan.


How to Protect President Donald J. Trump

It seems that Donald J. Trump has taken the fight to the Republican Party and shows no signs of going away as a serious candidate to become the GOP presidential nominee. As a matter of fact, at this point if it were a boxing match, the referee might have to stop the bout because the other contenders are bloodied, battered and beaten. Ever since he jumped into this race, Mr. Trump has been on the attack and the mainstay of his campaign has been to punch and counterpunch his competitors as well as his critics. Just ask John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Hillary Clinton, and Megyn Kelly, to name a few, how it feels to be in the crosshairs of The Donald.

High Profile Equals High Exposure

In today’s political world, these candidates become high-profile targets because of their high exposure. Due in part to the Internet and social media, sensitive information about candidates, such as addresses of private residences, family members, salaries, and business ventures, are accessible to the public. And magnifying this exposure, the candidates are constantly attending public events, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire that require maneuvering through crowds of unscreened people at functions such as state fairs and parades. A preventative protective methodology balances ends, ways, means, and threats to identify and assess risks in these scenarios and opportunistic vulnerabilities. To reach optimum event security, a thorough process of properly trained and prepared security personnel analyze appropriate risk control measures and apply interrelated countermeasures and protective tactics to harden these events.

I Stepped Into a Burning Ring of Fire

Event security planning can be more easily described by explaining the “ring” methodology. The five rings of protection are: (1) the outer perimeter typically secured by public sector personnel at the federal, state, and local level, filtering people, equipment, and vehicles requiring event access; (2) the middle perimeter is the event security assets comprised of private security guards and law enforcement officers screening and controlling entry; (3) the inner perimeter is the restricted areas inside the event site, such as the stage; (4) the fourth perimeter is the intelligence collection and information sharing between the private and public sectors; and (5) the fifth perimeter, the life blood of the event, is cyber security dedicated to critical infrastructure, including electricity, power grid, water, and communications.

If You’re Not First, You’re Last

Armed with the “knowledge and power of the rings,” a best practice-based event security template identifies appropriate countermeasures that will lower the various levels of risk. The countermeasures and design alternatives are specifically tailored to address an event security operational plan, executive protection measures, emergency preparedness policies, interoperable communications, and risk mitigation strategies. I believe the ability to meet security, risk management, and emergency preparedness objectives will—at many critical junctures—rise or fall on whether the security team can execute-to-plan. That is the benchmark and you should never settle for anything other than the highest level of execution and performance when designing your event security and executive protection strategies.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Best practices in executive protection should be benchmarked to determine the most effective and efficient operations suitable for the candidate and the event. Following how the best executive protection programs keep apprised of emerging threats while also staying informed of industry trends in countering these risks will strengthen your own strategy. The advance work that precedes the arrival of the candidate is just as, if not more, important than the security employed during the event. A laser-focused emphasis needs to be placed on the preparations, strategies, instructions, and responses, so that if any crisis were to occur, all contingencies are in place.

Even though many of us are not experienced with protecting a presidential candidate as he or she moves through large-scale event venues, the tenants of rock solid executive protection and event security plans are still paramount to your own specific needs and situations.


Robert Allenby’s 19th Hole Drives Case for Protection

What happened to Robert Allenby could happen to anyone, but when an incident involves a high net worth professional athlete like Allenby—ESPN ranks him 27th in all-time top money leaders at more than $27 million—the importance of personal protection escalates. Whether these multi-millionaires like it or not, high profile often invariably accompanies high net worth. Thanks to the ubiquitous presence of social media and the Internet, every moment in the lives of our socially-engineered celebrities is played out on a world stage. The exposure becomes more magnified and noteworthy whenever even the slightest hint of scandal or some type of wrongdoing surfaces. The reported tawdry combination of alcohol, injury, robbery, kidnapping, and strippers makes for a scintillating backdrop to a viral headline-grabbing storyline.

For the last several weeks, we have watched the saga of professional golfer Robert Allenby played out in the media. While some of the details of the events still remain unknown, Honolulu police recently confirmed the arrest of Patrick Owen Harbison on second-degree identity theft, second-degree attempted theft, and unauthorized possession of confidential information. Harbison was identified on surveillance video using Allenby’s credit cards. According to Allenby, over $20,000 in fraudulent purchases had been charged to his stolen credit cards.

Much of that night is still a mystery, but we do know that on the night after missing the cut for the Sony Open, Allenby went to the Amuse Wine Bar. Videotape shows him leaving the bar at 11:06 p.m., but Allenby does not recall the incidents that led up to him waking up in a nearby park without his wallet, credit cards, or phone, and with fresh cuts to his face and head. After returning to his hotel, Allenby posted images of his bloodied face on Facebook, claiming he had been beaten, robbed, and thrown from the trunk of a car; however, he later clarified that a homeless woman who helped him escape from the park had related those events. At this point, the police have not linked Harbison to a kidnapping plot and are not pursuing any other leads related to this aspect of the case.

With the benefit of hindsight, which always gives us perfect 20/20 vision, I’ve been able to dissect this situation to suggest some risk mitigation strategies to implement that would help to avoid a repeat performance. Let’s start with the victim in this case, Mr. Allenby. As I alluded to earlier, with fame and fortune comes media exposure and personal disclosure. The result is little to no privacy when in the public eye, which in this case was at a drinking establishment. The first rules of safety for everyone from college students to high profile individuals are to be aware of what you are consuming and never let your drink out of your sight. Someone could have spiked Allenby’s wine with some kind of drug that caused him to lose consciousness—and his wallet.

Another consideration is to surround yourself with people you can trust, who have your back, and who would never let something like this happen. Reportedly, Allenby’s caddie was with him, but that individual is better equipped for handing him a club to escape the dangers of the rough than spotting predators preying on the rich and famous. Personal protection starts with employing the services of a security professional who has experience in executive protection, protective advance measures, intelligence collection, and counter surveillance, which all combine to mitigate personal risk.

Here are some examples of what could have been done to safeguard Allenby from the unfortunate set of circumstances of that night in Honolulu:

Executive Protection

By assigning an executive protection specialist to accompany the protectee when in public areas, a trained professional is able to identify someone who is focusing an unusual amount of attention and interest toward the protectee or exhibiting signs of potential harm. Also, a person who is working—and not socializing—sends a clear and compelling message to the bad guys that they may want to reconsider their plans. This person should be a highly-skilled professional trained in protective security responsibilities, including access control measures and practices and the ability to screen and filter anyone seeking access to the protected individual.

Advance Measures

An advance provides structure to account for all events that comprise a schedule and can be conducted if plans to go to places like a restaurant, theater, shopping mall, or pubic venue are known ahead of time. Typically, the site is visited, points-of-contacts established, emergency egress determined, and familiarity with the location attained. Now if something bad happens, contingencies are in place to properly respond to and recover from the incident. To reach optimum protection, a thorough process is used to analyze appropriate risk control measures and implement interrelated countermeasures and protective security methods.

Intelligence Collection

Intelligence collection is mainly done through liaison with the proper authorities, specifically federal, state, or local law enforcement. These entities are invaluable resources to provide relevant information that could impact the person being protected or the event attended. Maybe there’s a planned demonstration and the police advise that the last time this group protested multiple people incurred serious injuries. Armed with this intelligence, the function can be avoided, saving some wear and tear on the client. In addition to this knowledge, appropriate and practical countermeasures and solutions can be offered to discreetly enhance the level of security while at the same time reducing the level of risk.

Counter Surveillance

Counter surveillance is especially important because it is one of the few security measures that allows for threats to be dealt with before they can develop into full-scale attacks. One common denominator of all the different potential threats—whether from lone wolves, militant groups, common criminals, or the mentally disturbed—is that those planning an operation monitor their target in advance. Regardless of the length of time surveillance is performed, the criminal or terrorist conducting it is exposed, and therefore vulnerable to detection. Because of this, counter surveillance—the process of detecting and mitigating hostile surveillance—is an important, though often overlooked, element of protective security operations.


The Boehner Case Speaks to the Need for a Threat Management Plan

The recent arrest of a country club bartender who threatened to kill House Speaker John Boehner makes a strong case for the need for organizations to design and implement an effective threat management plan. After Michael Robert Hoyt was indicted this past January, details of his life, mental health, work history, access to weapons, and regular proximity to a public figure have become available that present a situation in which an established comprehensive threat management plan might have avoided.  An effective threat management plan is constructed and implemented by multiple parties with different, but complimentary backgrounds. An experienced investigator, mental health physician, human resources professional, and protective security expert are examples of the applicable skill sets required to build the plan.

Often serving drinks to Boehner and other high profile members, Hoyt worked as a bartender at the Wetherington Country Club in West Chester, Ohio for five years until he was fired last October after several members complained about him. After his arrest, police searched his home and found an assault rifle magazine, ammunition, and a notebook containing “John Boehner” and “Ebola” among other writings, as well as lists of country club members. Arrest reports state that Hoyt was visibly upset about being fired, which might have prompted him to send an 11-page blog naming Boehner as the devil to his ex-girlfriend, neighbor, and father as well as emails to Debbie Boehner that mentioned his firing. In these communications, he claimed that he had the access and opportunity to poison Boehner’s wine if he had chosen to do so.

Other recovered documents state that Hoyt had been hearing voices though his car speakers telling him that Boehner was evil, eventually leading him to call 911 and ask the operator to tell his father he was sorry. When police went to his residence, he volunteered to be taken to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Hoyt had been previously treated for a psychotic episode two years ago and prescribed medication, which he stopped taking after six months.

As part of its protective responsibilities, my former employer, the United States Secret Service (USSS), has long held the view that the best protective strategy is prevention. In keeping with that tactic, their threat management efforts identify, assess, and control persons who have the interest and ability to mount attacks against USSS protected individuals. The Exceptional Case Study Project (ECSP), the USSS’s first operationally relevant study on assassins and near-assassins, was completed in 1998. The ECSP was a five-year operational analysis of the thinking and behavior of individuals who assassinated, attacked, or approached to attack a prominent person of public status in the United States. It employed an incident-focused, behaviorally-based approach consisting of a systematic analysis of investigative reports, criminal justice records, medical records, and other source documents, as well as in-depth interviews with subjects.

The ECSP determined assassinations and attacks on public officials and figures are the products of understandable and often discernible processes of thinking and behavior. Most people who attack others perceive the attack as the means to a goal or a way to solve a problem. An individual’s motives and selection of a target are directly connected. Ideas of assassination develop over weeks, months, even years, and are stimulated by television and newspaper images, movies, and books. Potential assassins seek out historical information about assassination, the lives of attackers, and the protectors of their targets. They may deliberate about which target—and sometimes targets—to choose. They also may transfer their interest from one target to another. After selecting a target, attackers and near-lethal attackers develop plans and sometimes rehearse before mounting an attack.

When conducting a threat assessment, protectors and investigators must also pay attention to the individual’s choice of a potential target, assuming the individual has selected a target. The following questions should be addressed:

How well is the target known to the individual? Is the individual acquainted with the target’s work and lifestyle patterns?

Is that information readily available, as in the case of many public officials or highly visible public figures?

How vulnerable is the target to an attack? What changes in the target’s lifestyle or living arrangements could make attack by the individual more difficult or less likely?

How sophisticated is the target about the need for caution?

How concerned about safety is the target? How concerned are those around the target (such as family or staff)?

Let’s see how these individual characteristics, investigative questions, information analysis, and management options apply in the Boehner case. First, the potential attacker had an evident process of thinking and behavior—he blamed the target for the loss of his job and the Ebola virus. Second, the investigation uncovered two red flags—history of mental illness and access to weapons. Third, he communicated with friends, family members, and Boehner’s spouse about his interest in the target. Finally, and the most concerning, the management component was missing because nothing was done to “manage” Hoyt until after the plot was revealed.

We can all learn from this incident and apply it to our own particular situations. We don’t have to fear an imminent assassination to understand the danger of a disgruntled employee and the importance of performing our due diligence in background screenings, proper investigative processes, and assessment capabilities that identify the initial signs of potential threats. When you recognize that a threat management plan must be in place to prevent harm from being done, have access to these resources, and are knowledgeable to the required multi-disciplinary acumen, you have a strong foundation upon which to build your own threat management plan.


Would Counter Surveillance Have Stopped the Charlie Hebdo Assault?

In the aftermath of the terrorist incident that left civilians and public servants reeling in France, much has been written and opined as these tragic events are reviewed. Unfortunately, this manner of violence gains worldwide attention. As the timeline and actions are broken down and dissected by the masses in an effort to learn what could have been done to prevent this tragedy, the media has focused predominantly on the preventative measures in place and why these terrorists were not being watched. My perspective to understanding what happened in France is geared more toward the security discipline of surveillance and specifically counter surveillance in order to be more aware of similar situations that might present themselves here.

The French authorities are currently reviewing their multi-jurisdictional intelligence collection and information sharing capabilities. One of their goals is to determine where on their surveillance radar were the Kouachi brothers, both of whom had been arrested on multiple occasions for involvement in terrorist activities. The French authorities had clearly identified one of the brothers as a “person of interest,” but this threat apparently dissipated and they decided to discontinue tracking these subjects. One reason could be budgetary, since keeping even one person under continuous surveillance requires a significant financial investment in resources. France reportedly has over 1,000 persons under surveillance who have recently traveled to Iraq and Syria. Trying to keep these numbers under surveillance can overwhelm capacity, not just monetarily, but also in human capital.

While I agree that intelligence gathering and assessing are critical preventative and investigative tools, we have other means at our disposal to combat mass violence. Surveillance is another piece to the counter-terrorism puzzle and comes in many different shapes and sizes in the modern world. From satellites in war zones tracking and locating Al Qaeda leaders to pinhole cameras watching, recording, and catching corrupt politicians, the advancement of technology has provided a variety of means to surreptitiously watch, listen, and follow a target.

Even with all of these techno gadgets, nothing compares to traditional surveillance, whether it is achieved through driving, walking, or stationary means. Because of our ability to think, reason, and conclude, the human element simply cannot be dismissed. And since technology often fails, a multi-layered plan must be in place to achieve the best results. Some have speculated that the Charlie Hebdo offices had been under surveillance leading up to the attack because the terrorists entered the building at the same time as the weekly staff meeting. It has been well documented that they initially went to the wrong building, which weakens this conjecture; however, it was either coincidental or they knew this meeting was taking place. Whatever the situation, the result remains the same—eight journalists were killed. If the assault had happened on any other day or time, it is unlikely that the entire staff would have been on the premises.

I believe that this was well-planned, rehearsed, and thought out, with contingencies in place. If you can accept this possibility, then I am able to present what I believe may have been done to mitigate this threat and possibly thwart this act of violence. The principal goals of counter surveillance are to conduct sporadic observation of the areas of interest and to identify any unusual behavior or persons showing undue interest for a site, person(s), or function. Counter surveillance is especially important because it is one of the few security measures that allows for threats to be dealt with before they can develop into full-scale attacks.

One common denominator of all the different potential threats—whether from lone wolves, militant groups, common criminals, or the mentally disturbed—is that those planning an operation monitor their target in advance. Regardless of the length of time surveillance is performed, the criminal or terrorist conducting it is exposed, and therefore vulnerable to detection. Because of this, counter surveillance—the process of detecting and mitigating hostile surveillance—is an important, though often overlooked, element of counterterrorism and security operations.

Law enforcement departments and security organizations could consider developing this methodology to enhance security measures with respect to detecting and deterring the types of threats associated with either an organized group or lone individual. Counter surveillance could be used at a threatened site, such as the Charlie Hebdo offices, or when an organized protest is staged at public events. Security guards and police officers can be trained in counter surveillance techniques to bolster the protective tactics used to protect these people, places, and properties. Counter surveillance is just another tool in the tool box to consider in our war against the worldwide threat of terrorism.