The Grassroots of Marijuana Security (Part Two)

This blog is the second in a three part series focusing on the connection between security and the medical and recreational cannabis industry. In Part One I talked about what was required in a security plan for the oversight of the dispensing/cultivating operations. In summary, I recommended that the plan address technology (cyber security, digital video cameras, automated access control, biometric readers, and intrusion detection alarm systems); processes (security policies, incident response, visitor management, prohibited items, and training); personnel (on-site security and transportation security); and liaison with critical third parties (state officials) and first responders (police and fire). Now, I’ll discuss a security strategy to implement during the construction (if applicable), build out, preparation, and operations planning of your business. In Part Three, I will explain the necessary ongoing security posture for sustainability.

Congratulations You Have Your License!

So you’ve cleared the first hurdle—you were issued a license by the state to run a commercial cannabis business. The good news is you have your license, and the bad news is you have your license. I’ll explain. Just because the state has authorized you to operate in this industry does not guarantee that you will succeed. In Illinois, you’ll be in a four-year pilot period for fledgling cannabis businesses. If at any point during this timeframe you experience a security- or safety-related incident or non-compliance with the Illinois Department of Agriculture or Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, your license could go up in smoke (another terrible pun, but somehow appropriate). So the key to your success after getting your license is keeping your license.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?   

I have found that to be a successful security consultant I must understand the importance of collaboration. In this specific industry I have worked with professionals who offer very diverse backgrounds and skill sets. I have sat alongside venture capitalists, builders, architects, designers, owners, investors, engineers, chemists, doctors, police, fire, and emergency medical personnel, and cyber experts, to name a few. These interactions have taught me to know my limitations and stick to my specific area of expertise. Deferring to another professional, especially when you find yourself outside of your domain, is a sign of strength not weakness—plus it’s just smart business.

Separating the Walk from the Talk

Another dynamic that comes along with the opening of a marijuana enterprise is the inundation of vendors and companies that want to sell you everything from electronic tracking devices to bulletproof glass to biometric readers. A qualified security professional can run interference and be the filter for vetting all of the necessary services. Backed by my expertise and counsel, I research, identify, and validate candidates seeking to do business with my cannabis clients, offering products and services such as security systems integrators, contract security services, safe and vault specialists, transportation vehicles, and point-of-sale software. Through due diligence, interviewing, reference checking, and proposal request and review, I am able to save (my client) thousands of dollars by ultimately finding the most suitable provider at a cost-efficient price—to deliver the best bang for the buck.

The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

This focused security strategy has been created to support the design, construction, implementation, operation, and sustainability of a cannabis cultivation center or dispensary. Because the commercial cannabis industry is fast becoming a highly competitive market, the success of most businesses in this sector is based on several critical categories, with a safe and secure environment to prevent theft, diversion, tampering, and crime at the top of the list. As the outsourced security expert, I achieve these objectives through prevention-oriented planning; continuous coordination with organizational leadership; liaison with state and local government; application of security best practices; and installation of the latest technology to deter, secure, monitor, and mitigate risk in all aspects of the business. This methodology has been developed through many years of experience in the security field and uniquely tailored to address the specific needs of this industry.

The Grassroots of Marijuana Security (Part One)

To say the medical and recreational cannabis industry is precipitously growing (pun definitely intended) could be the understatement of the century. And before jumping into this emerging multi-million dollar business (over $700 million in sales in Colorado alone last year), you need to know some important facts. First, the entire endeavor starts and potentially ends with an exhaustive application package to the state where your facility (dispensary or cultivation) will be located. This is an expensive piece to the puzzle and could cost millions. I compare the evaluation and scoring of the application package to legalized gambling. It’s an extremely competitive process, you are not guaranteed to be issued a license, and unfortunately more losers than winners emerge.

I Love When a Plan Comes Together

Every successful business venture begins with a plan and this industry is no exception. Your security plan should include procedures for the oversight of the dispensing and/or cultivating operations that ensure accurate record keeping, patient confidentiality, and a ubiquitous security posture. The plan should address technology (digital video cameras, automated access control, biometric readers, and intrusion detection alarm systems); processes (security policies, incident response, visitor management, prohibited items, and training); personnel (on-site security and transportation security); and liaison with critical third parties (state officials) and first responders (police and fire). Well, that’s the 30,000-foot view. Since the plans I have helped create are about 100 pages in length, I obviously can’t fit everything in a blog—unless you want to read “War and Peace”—but I’ll try to include the most important points.

Location, Location, Location!

As you know location trumps all and in this industry, a number of zoning restrictions will determine the location of your facility. You also need to demonstrate why the location is suitable for public and patient access, parking, handicap compliance, safe cultivation and dispensing, product handling, and storage. You’ll need to articulate how the business will support the immediate community and how your security will negate any detrimental impact. Additionally, security schematics will indicate fire and life safety systems, CCTV, card readers, burglar alarms, panic buttons, fencing, and gates, and diagrams will depict the property, boundary lines, exterior landscape, and interior layout, as well as storage and delivery areas.

How to Separate Yourself From the Competition  

Let’s start with exhibiting industry (and state) compliant labor and employment practices. You will need a safe, secure, and healthy working environment that will include background screening, emergency preparedness, workplace violence mitigation, code of conduct, and an employee assistance program. Other ways you can differentiate yourself are to show support to the local community, benefits to the socio-economic status of the residents, and coordination with the law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel. Remember, you’re creating a strategy to protect a business that is (presently) in violation of federal law. It’s a cash only business that requires safes, vaults, armed guards, and armored vehicles to transport product and money.

It’s a Town Full of Losers and I’m Pulling Out of Here to Win   

Sorry, I needed to include at least one Bruce Springsteen reference. Today’s security climate offers an opportune time for a holistic safety and security approach related to the daily operations and activities of this emerging industry. The design and creation of a comprehensive security plan to mitigate risk to employees, customers, products, operations, and brand can and should be addressed directly by implementing security strategies through an integrated approach in a number of areas I have addressed. In Illinois the security plan accounted for 20% of the overall score for the application package. When applications were evaluated equally, whether or not the license was granted was ultimately determined by the strength of the security plan. Remember that your security methodology along with the competence of your security practitioner may be the tipping points to your success or failure.

Escape From New York: When Life Imitates Art

Over three weeks ago, two convicted killers staged a movie-like escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York. The escape and the series of events that followed initiated a massive law enforcement response to track down these fugitive prisoners. Ultimately, good triumphed over evil and both men were caught, but unfortunately one lost his life in his efforts to elude the authorities. Recently our culture has made it fashionable to criticize law enforcement for a variety of perceived indiscretions. Candidly, some of this criticism is warranted, but what most people fail to realize is that a law enforcement officer is the first person they would turn to in a life or death situation. Much of what these professionals bring to each situation is the skill and experience to lead a complicated investigation that in this case ended with two extremely dangerous criminals taken off the streets and no longer posing a threat to society.

If I Wanted Your Opinion, I Would Ask For It

Initially, the only “capturing” in this case had been done by the national media spotlight. As this entire drama played out, every talking head on every news talk radio and television medium did not hesitate to offer up his or her unsolicited and unfounded opinion. Interestingly, the (uneducated) media and the (unknowing) public characterized this incident as a manhunt; however, to the trained law enforcement and security professional, this is more accurately described as a multi-jurisdictional criminal investigation. Yes, a manhunt or search was involved, and this process garnered most of the attention. But behind the scenes, the men and women overseeing and steering the investigation did the real yeoman’s work. These unheralded professionals constructed the investigative strategy to tighten the noose and turn up the heat as the search area shrunk. Now that this investigation is over, a new investigation begins—to determine how they escaped and, more importantly, who helped them escape. Two prison employees are already in custody, and more may follow.

If I Could Turn Back Time

Working backwards, one of the latest pieces of evidence uncovered in the case were the discovery of a fugitive’s fingerprints along with prison-issued garments inside a burglarized cabin. This event helped pinpoint and downsize the scope and scale of the investigation. Prior to this development, sightings as far as 400 miles away near the Pennsylvania border were reported. Another major break in the case was the arrest of two possible accomplices who worked at the correctional facility. One person is a guard at the prison accused of smuggling in tools. Allegedly the other individual had sexual relationships with both fugitives and planned to provide the getaway car only to change her mind at the last minute. All of this pertinent information set the stage for what had become an exhaustive large-scale investigation.

Separating Fact from Fiction  

The police followed up on more than 2,000 leads, and as more clues continued to surface, they obviously confirmed some of these tips in order to separate fact from fiction. Every investigation features multiple facets that will hopefully and eventually lead to an arrest. An investigator’s role is multi-purpose: a case needs to be built; responsible parties identified, whether directly or indirectly involved; proof (e.g., evidence) compiled; and credibility (e.g., fact) separated from speculation (e.g., fiction). A critical piece of evidence such as fingerprints (e.g., DNA) or forensic evidence is considered extremely reliable in an investigation because it is difficult to question. Other evidence such as an eyewitness account is categorized as testimony (e.g., oral or written statements), which is admissible in a judicial or administrative proceeding, but subject to the scrutiny of a defense attorney.

The Devil Is in the Details

In order to catch these men, investigators did more than saturate an area with searchers. They spent a painstaking amount of time sifting through information and crafting a strategy and tactical plan to allocate and implement the resources required to apprehend these criminals. “Leaving no stone unturned” is the best cliché I can think of when it comes to the investigative methodology used for this situation. According to a spokesperson, the authorities were looking “behind every tree, under every rock and inside every structure.” This investigation implemented numerous techniques such as reviewing hotel registries to identify alias names, interviewing anyone who may have had contact with the fugitives, going door to door to check on homes and seasonal residences, and conducting vehicle searches at police checkpoints.

Playing from the Same Sheet of Music   

These methods and findings are not happenstance or spontaneous. Instead they are all part of a holistic investigative approach synchronized between multiple private, state, local, and federal partners. The seamless integration between these different entities and jurisdictions is the hallmark of a complex criminal investigation coordinated and controlled by experienced and professional investigators. The sharing of information, scrubbing of intelligence, and designed actions are carefully vetted and approved by authorized decision makers entrusted with this responsibility by their respective organizations. This investigation was a collaboration between different skill sets and backgrounds that resulted in the implementation of the very best tactics and processes. The final outcome of these efforts was not whether these inmates would be caught, but when they would be caught.  After the smoke cleared and the dust settled, these investigators did their jobs, the investigation resulted in arrests, and peace of mind was restored to the area.

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Put Security in the Pole Position for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing

The roar of engines will be heard this week from the world renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) as drivers prepare for the Memorial Day weekend tradition of the annual running of the Indianapolis 500. Of course with cars racing at speeds of 200+ mph, serious safety and emergency management concerns are intrinsic to this sport. Car racing is one of the few events where more attention needs to be paid to the participants than the spectators. That being said, a tremendous amount of security goes into the design, creation, and implementation of a holistic security plan for the protection of the fans as well as the racers. I offer some of the major areas that need to be addressed, which are just a few of the challenges that need to be detected, deterred, delayed, and denied.

Letting the Trojan Horse Inside the City Gates 

Just imagine not only being allowed to bring your own cooler to a sporting event but also packing it with almost anything except for firearms, hand grenades, illegal drugs, and glass bottles (which can be used as a projectile if your driver drops a transmission). Yes, the IMS allows quite a liberal assortment of items, inevitably raising the bar on the issues associated with protecting the site. Because of this policy, a strong focus on preparing the security officers and law enforcement personnel manning the entrance gates starts with sufficient training in the proper searching and screening techniques to identify contraband and prohibited items. You cannot expect your gate staff to know how to inspect containers and packages without being taught what to look for and how to look for it. Also, they’ll need the necessary equipment such as flashlights, batons, metal detectors, vehicle mirrors, and if possible, drug-sniffing and/or explosive-detection canines. With the proper resources along with adequate education and awareness, your access points will be hardened along with the venue.

Gentleman, Start Your Engines—but Please Don’t Light a Match!    

Did you know that on the day of the Indy 500 race more than 10,000 gallons of fuel are on the property? The primary security issue here is two-fold: securing the fuel tanks against destruction and having a plan in place if a toxic spill requires cleanup. Adding fuel to the fire (pun intended) is the heat in late May and the close proximity to the fans of Gasoline Alley that stores all of this hazardous material. The best ways to protect the storage containers boil down to the implementation of various security measures like fencing, barriers, video surveillance, locked access points, sensory devices, alarms, and the posting of security personnel. The HAZMAT mission is to respond to a release of a hazardous material, recognize the situation as one requiring specialized assistance, have the capability to contain the spill, and possess the skills and resources necessary to render the situation safe—another example of the need for proper staffing and skill sets on site, this time to mitigate a chemical or biological incident.

Protecting Life in the Fast Lane

With more than 300,000 people attending the race, thousands of staff working the event, and hundreds of racers and pit crew participating in the 500-mile battle, the IMS needs to be prepared to provide general first aid and more serious medical attention as well as deal with a possible mass casualty situation. This potential incident requires proper planning and preparation including a pre-designated triage area to sort injured people into groups based on their need for, or likely benefit from, immediate medical treatment. Because the designated area must accommodate a large number of people, the infield is the likely location for a triage area as well as a decontamination (DECON) area where individuals can be cleansed to remove contaminants such as micro-organisms, hazardous materials, chemicals, and radioactive substances. Coordination with HAZMAT ensures the proper staffing and supplies of disinfection, antisepsis, and sterilization supplies are available.

So, Is That All We Need to Protect the Old Brickyard?

No, that’s not all that is needed to protect this historic venue affectionately known as the Old Brickyard. I wish it were that easy to only address access control, emergency medical, and hazardous materials to ensure safety. But of course we must consider crowd control, bomb sweeps, alcohol management, ticket scalping, drug trafficking, and lost children, just to name a few. A major event like the Indy 500 requires year-round planning. After the winner takes his or her victory chug of milk, safety, security, and law enforcement personnel will convene an after action meeting to talk through all of the measures that were implemented and candidly acknowledge what went well and what could have gone better. Most professionals agree that experience matters—you’ll learn more from being on the ground during one of these events than you will from reading a manual. After being involved in the security operations for an event like the Indy 500, you’ll be sure to see the checkered flag as you prepare for your next event.

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Run For The Roses But Not For Your Life

The beginning of May welcomes the first jewel of the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horse racing. Otherwise known as the Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby is probably the most famous horse race in the world and draws spectators from across the globe. With the Preakness in Baltimore and the Belmont Stakes in New York completing the trifecta, these prominent equestrian events represent tremendous undertakings from a security perspective. The media spotlight alone raises the stakes because it offers a global platform for nefarious activity. A terrorist group could place one of these venues in its crosshairs, motivated by the worldwide coverage associated with these pinnacles of the racing world.

It’s More Than Just a Horse Race  

After personally performing security work at some prestigious horse racing events, I am familiar with the nuances and dynamics that are indigenous to this culture and environment. At a minimum, a week-long series of parties, galas, and functions precedes race day. As corporate sponsors wine and dine their most valuable clients, these increased entertainment occasions call for increased security. Executive protection specialists, armed and unarmed security officers, and off-duty law enforcement are the usual suspects enlisted to safeguard and protect the people attending and the properties playing host to these gatherings.

What Happens in the Infield Stays in the Infield  

If you have never been to the infield for one of these events, you should add it to your bucket list. As this sub-culture takes on a life of its own, the infield performances might frighten the faint of heart. I have witnessed the following: mud wrestling (clothing optional), intimacy (yup, that kind of intimacy), drug usage (enough to fail a 10 panel drug test), alcohol poisoning (e.g., too many Mint Juleps, among other things), physical altercations (donnybrooks), and even running porta potty roof top races (just go to You Tube and search Kentucky Derby Porta Potty Run). With all of this extracurricular activity comes a number of security and safety issues that should be considered in emergency preparedness planning.

Be Prepared—And I’m not Talking About the Boy Scouts 

Adequate staffing of emergency medical personnel on site to treat people is a top priority. After all, mud wrestlers will need first aid to treat their wounds and infections! All kidding aside, these activities can and probably will require additional safety and security attention. Obviously, not all intimacy is consensual so treatment options must be available for any victim of sexual assault. The perfunctory drug activity at these events has typically resulted in a number of overdoses so security and medical personnel must be prepared with the proper medications. As unconsciousness, choking, and vomiting are signs of alcohol overindulgence, security professionals need to stand ready to attend to victims in an expeditious manner. The Porta Potty Run will undoubtedly produce a number of broken limbs as the combatants fall from the tops of these structures, so ambulances need to be available to transport the injured to local hospitals.

Yeah, but What About the Rest of the Site?

We must also turn our attention to the security concerns of the horses, jockeys, trainers, owners, families, celebrities, public officials, workers, and, of course, spectators. Although they won’t present the same issues as their friends in the infield, the people in a packed grandstand also deserve a safe and secure experience. Crowd control, alcohol management, seat integrity (ensuring patrons are in the right seats), pick pocketing, counterfeiting, and scalping are typical security challenges associated with a large-scale sporting event.

Other issues jockeying for position in your list of security concerns are traffic control, parking lot management, vehicle access, delivery screening, and an emergency evacuation plan in case of a weather event or bomb threat. All of these respective areas need to be addressed and countered with a specific plan that has been properly vetted by the multitude of public and private entities responsible for protecting the people, assets, and property at the event. By recognizing and tackling these moving parts, you can bet your event security plan will be a hands down winner just like at the Run for the Roses.

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Court Storming: Who’ll Stop the Rain?

With the NBA playoffs in full swing and March Madness behind us, now is a good time to take a closer look at the cultural phenomenon known as Court Storming. In light of what recently transpired at some NCAA games, court storming has become part of the collegiate experience and ranks right up there with tailgating, toga parties, and beer pong.

As a former Director of Security for the NBA, I was only seriously concerned about this crowd control issue during the Finals and, more specifically, following the deciding game for the championship. Because any post-game revelry was definitely a serious security and safety concern, we took the appropriate steps to prepare for this occurrence. It is important to understand that court storming cannot be stopped, but it can be controlled. With the proper preparation and contingencies in place, risk to the players, coaches, staffs, employees, and spectators can be mitigated.

The first step in planning for this event was training our security and usher personnel to protect the court. Prior to the opening of the gates, we assembled all of our event personnel and rehearsed how we would secure the floor. The plan centered around two perimeters—an outer perimeter to control access to the court and an inner perimeter to protect the teams and their family members. We used a nylon rope as a barricade that we extended around the entire court as soon as the game ended. Serving as rope holders, security and usher staff were repositioned from their assigned posts. In order to effectively exercise our plan, we made the determination to pool our resources and reallocate our assets to the floor. I am a strong advocate of power in numbers because when you have an arena filled with 18,000 fans, you have to be equipped to stem the tide if they decide to rush the court.

The next step in our planning process was to maintain what we had established. Positioning myself inside the inner perimeter, I was able to observe the chaos and frenzy of the rabid fans celebrating a world championship. Fueled by euphoria and mixed with a little alcohol, this dynamic always presented a formidable foe and an omnipresent threat. The image of the little boy with his finger in the dike comes to mind, because as one hole is plugged, another ominously appears. If I saw areas on our rope line being breached, my planned response was to dispatch extra security to those locations from a cadre of personnel I had designated for that exact role. Because my contingency planning had addressed this concern, we were adequately prepared to react and respond to this hazard.

The final planning step was to get the teams and families off the court, and we used our inner perimeter to facilitate their movement. The use of the nylon rope offered the advantage of moving the barricade and turning the secure zone into a fluid, mobile, adaptable space. Our personnel were able to escort the players, their families, and other people off the court by creating a temporary corridor from the floor to the back-of-the-house. Safety was paramount in this operation for both participants and spectators. By separating the players from the fans, we actually reduced the possibility of an accidental injury or an intentional criminal act, such as a physical altercation.

After addressing the security measures required to troubleshoot court storming in real time, I’d like to focus on what can be done before and after a game to minimize such an activity. Starting with what can be done before a game, a comprehensive public service campaign can educate the general public about the arena’s policy on court storming. If fans understand that this type of activity is prohibited, violators will be prosecuted, and ticket revocation enforced, then people might think twice before they decide to enter the field of play. Video messages on the scoreboard, announcements over the public address system, posted signage, website material, and specific text on the back of the ticket all offer different means to communicate that court storming poses a safety threat that will be dealt with swiftly, sternly, and decisively.

The after component of containing court storming involves evaluating how this transgression is reviewed and investigated post-incident. By interviewing staff to collect evidence and reviewing the tape that documents the event, it may be possible to identify patrons who have clearly violated the published protocols and in some jurisdictions broken the law, which could result in a charge of trespassing. As cliché as it might sound, it can be beneficial for the sake of security to make an example of some of these individuals and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

As I stated before, there is no panacea to eliminate court storming, but remedies can be put into place to plan, prepare, respond, and recover from these types of events. By creating security policies, educating staff, conducting ongoing training, maintaining public awareness, identifying discernible boundaries, and communicating consequences, you can put a collaborative and holistic process in place to counter this risk.

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.