Guest OpEd By Doug Haines, Owner, Haines Security Solutions
A couple of months ago, I was watching a news report about a kid who was bullied, beaten and died from the injuries inflicted on him by his classmates.
The reporter was interviewing the principal about how something like this could happen at the school when they had security in place.
The principal said something along the lines of, “I can’t understand how this could happen we have cameras and a resource officer”.
My blood curdled.
(13 year old Diego, whose head struck a concrete pillar after he was punched by another boy at a Moreno Valley middle school, has died of his injuries. Courtesy of CBS Los Angeles and YouTube. Posted on Sep 25, 2019.)
I wanted to reach through the TV and grab the principal by the face.
After yelling at the TV, my wife was able to calm me down enough so that I could rationalize why I was so angry.
I soon realized, that it really wasn’t the principal’s fault in responding the way he did, because he really had no idea as to what security is or isn’t, even though he is responsible for the safety of all his students, teachers, administrators, visitors and more.
Unfortunately, he had been doing what so many other administrators, office and facility managers have been doing to ‘deter, prevent and defend against violence’ in our schools.
He bought into the ‘sales pitch’: “If one camera, resource officer or gun is good then two must be better and three… well; and as long as there’s robust access control and we can keep the threat out and we’ll all be okay.”
The truth is he was trying to solve behavioral issues with physical security applications.
Now, I’m not a psychologist and haven’t had formal training on analyzing adolescent behavior other than having lived through my own son’s teenage years as a parent.
But I do know this, all the cameras, resource officers, guns on campus (even in the hands of the “good guys”) plus access control systems in the world, cannot prevent a bad thing from happening alone.
Addressing just the physical environment is not enough. The behavioral environment must also be addressed with equal importance.
The psychology behind why people do what they do, is part of the multi-facet complications of the security puzzle.
That said, in order to have proper physical security, mitigation strategist and those responsible must understand the types of aggressor groups, what motivates them and the tools they need in order to be successful.
Aggressors fall into four main categories:
Criminals (sophisticated/unsophisticated, organized/unorganized)
Terrorist (domestic/transnational/State sponsored) and subversives (intelligence agents [State/non-State sponsored])
Furthermore, there are four main aggressor objectives:
To inflict injury or death on people
To destroy or damage equipment, facilities or other resources
To steal equipment, material or information, and
To create adverse publicity
Tools on the other hand, don’t fall into any category and are virtually unlimited.
Unfortunately, the security industry has been approaching school security from the wrong angle.
We keep thinking, ‘if one is good two must be better and we can harden our way to a perfect world.’ We cannot.
School shootings and other incidents of mass violence will continue, I am disappointed to say, until we begin addressing and eliminating the causes that promote these types of behavior.
School systems have developed a variety of multi-disciplinary programs that address prevention and response to mental health issues – if a student manifests behavior that might precipitate violence on a grand scale; i.e., bullying, addiction and interpersonal violence. But still, this is not enough.
Some security companies offer “social media behavioral monitoring” and are analyzing a person’s social media presence in “real time” and reporting actionable intelligence of patterns or suspicious behaviors to authorities, but this alone, again is not enough.
Using artificial intelligence, and deep learning are great but they’re just another tool.
However, just because a person manifests some type of anxiety or disruptive behavior does not necessarily indicate they will act out, and it does not mean that this individual will become a school shooter.
Based on my experience it is my educated belief that we need to get to the cause of the angst.
Why does a “perfectly normal kid” decide to take a gun into a school and begin shooting?
Could traditional mitigation strategies which result in a “prison look” of many schools contribute to this phenomenon?
Is it possible, that the chain-linked fence surrounding the school yard, the metal detector that everyone passes through and the roaming armed guard all contribute in some way?
Just because those increasingly culturally accepted strategies have become the “new normal” – does not mean that every child exposed to these environments will grow up and commit a criminal act.
However, there is substantial evidence indicating that they will carry a certain degree of angst with them into adulthood, in part based on social engineering resulting from these environments.
We as a society do not have to look far to see examples of this imposing ‘big dog,’ or ‘in your face’ approach which carries with it the subliminal messaging that ‘something bad’ is likely to happen.
Visiting Las Vegas of late for instance, you cannot help but take note of approximately four and a half miles of shiny metal bollards of substantial size placed every four to five feet along the Las Vegas Strip.
(More steel bollards are scheduled to be installed along the Las Vegas Strip to bring the total number to about 4,600, according to a county spokesman. Courtesy of KSNV News 3 Las Vegas and YouTube. Posted on May 24, 2019.)
That being said, casino-hopping visitors have repeatedly expressed anxiety, angst and extreme discomfort crossing streets at the crosswalks.
Firstly, city planners have not implemented any design mitigation strategies in the roadways to require reduced vehicular traffic, so vehicles can obtain considerable speed before potentially hitting pedestrians within crosswalks.
Secondly, many of the islands where pedestrians wait for the light are unprotected.
Furthermore, the effect of massive bollards along the strip can result in an emotional response to indicate “They are expecting something to happen here, and if it’s happening here in Vegas, perhaps the traditional ‘prison look’ strategies mean that it could also happen to our kids in school.
However, along the Strip there are other areas which are not protected by massive bollards.
They have been designed to provide the same level of protection in keeping a high-speed vehicle from intentionally or unintentionally ramming into pedestrians but instead use thoughtful hardscaping and landscaping.
We can address behavior in the built environment in a non-traditional way as a substitute to the confrontational ‘in your face’ approach.
The approach should be more subtle, in fact, the more transparent it is the more effective it will be.
Normally, to deter crime, we put up signs that say, “Cameras in Use” and some folks get creative saying, “Smile you’re on camera”.
For access control, we traditionally mark our territory by placing a chain-linked fence or some other type of “barrier” on our boundary-line. It has a limited effect because a truly dedicated threat will bring the tools needed to circumvent it.
Build a big fence; they’ll bring a bigger ladder. Make it even higher and they’ll bring an even bigger ladder or tunnel under it.
Sure, there is a degree of deterrent, however, a dedicated “bad actor” will bring the tools needed in order to be successful.
Research shows that the concepts of natural surveillance, natural access control, territorial reinforcement and maintenance contribute to the deterrence and reduction of criminal activity.
In the early 1990’s, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles, one such technology utilized in the development of neighborhoods by the National Institute of Crime Prevention (NICP), was introduced to connect these two worlds – unwanted behavior and a physical deterrent.
The basic concept of CPTED is if we can design the space so that it is almost always under observation “bad actors” won’t act badly.
I believe it has the potential to go even further than that.
Not only do we need to design the space using these concepts, but we also must design the space so that “acting badly” cannot occur.
Additionally, in the off chance it does the built environment should help to reduce its effects and not contribute to its severity.
Cities and Counties throughout the country are adopting CPTED ordinances which require site plan reviews with crime prevention in mind; with law enforcement officers who are specially trained in CPTED work closely with planners, architects, city officials, and educators to ensure the proper design of structures, schools, and neighborhoods.
CPTED participants learn how the design and use of the environment can control human/criminal behavior and reduce the fear of crime, through natural means.
How natural access control and natural surveillance decrease the opportunity for crime.
(CPTED looks at the environment in which crime can occur and designs areas to make them safer and more appealing to live or work in. Courtesy of Christchurch City Council Civic Offices and YouTube. Posted on Apr 3, 2016.)
Communities utilizing CPTED principles tend to thrive economically and socially.
A couple of years ago researchers in the European Union conducted a survey, asking elementary school children who had emigrated from a war-torn country to draw what they considered ‘safety’ or ‘security’ to be.
These children drew pictures of fencing with razor-wire and ‘gunships’ overhead.
The researchers then asked the same question to European children who had not be exposed to hostile environments, and those children drew houses with trees, stick families, a dog and sunshine.
Shouldn’t we be striving for the ‘sunshine’ scenario?
There is some truth to the traditional concept that the harder we make it for the ‘bad guy’ to do ‘bad things’ the more of a deterrent there is.
However, truly ‘bad people’ will always find a way to circumvent it, which in turn defeats its purpose.
Moving away from traditional methods of hardening schools after every new incident occurs by using ‘big dog’ philosophies will take time, nonetheless, we can begin immediately to search out innovative ways to create environments that are provide the same levels of security, while also providing a mixture of color and natural materials which are much more soothing and aesthetically pleasing.
I submit that beginning this school year, administrators should use the checklist provided by the Partner Alliance for School Safety (PASSK-12) to conduct a physical security risk assessment of their campus and whenever possible replace traditional mitigation solutions they would normally opt for with a hardscaping, landscaping or art strategy.
Creativity and student, staff and community involvement are essential.
Success in security is sloppy. It’s entangled.
It’s very hard to distinguish where detection, assessment, policy and procedures, response and engagement begin and end.
Addressing behavior must be coupled with addressing the physical environment. They require a different amount of time, effort and commitment to produce positive results but nonetheless are equally important.
In order for students, who eventually become adults in our society, to thrive we must begin create environments, internal and external, that foster “well-being” in both the social and physical ecosystems, and if we can do that in a more aesthetically pleasing way, then why not?
About the Author
Doug Haines, owner of Haines Security Solutions, LLC (HSS), is a United States Air Force veteran with over 45 years of law enforcement and security related experience, which includes teaching building design principles to architects, engineers, facility managers, planners, and security professionals.
He is a distinguished judge on the Annual ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Judges Panel, and a regular expert contributor to AST, sharing his years of experience and insights with our 75K+ readers.
Doug’s company HSS, is recognized as a center of expertise within the security community for risk assessment, providing services for many federal; State, local government agencies and private companies around the globe, and is a founding member of International Centers of Security Training Excellence (ICSTE).
Each ICSTE member company offers courses in one of several security verticals yet provides a location for other members to present their courses upon request.
At its River Park facility in Oxnard, CA architects, engineers, facility managers, planners and security professionals learn about antiterrorism countermeasures in building design, the integration of security technologies in the built environment, and risk analysis strategies.
The CPK-United BV (also an ICSTE founding member) training facility in Hilversum, The Netherlands gears its curriculum towards fashion retail, hospitality (hotel and nightclubs) and port security guard activities and executive protection.
Tactics for patrolman and SWAT are taught by former police officers at the Greenville, NY training center, where a firing range and urban mock-up are on site.
In 2017, HSS’s Physical Security Engineering Training and Certification (PSET&C) program was recognized as the Best Homeland Security Education Program, by American Security Today and received a coveted Platinum ‘ASTORS’ Award.
More information about ABRA, CAIRA, ICSTE or other services can be found on the company’s website at www.hainessecuritysolutions.com.
Haines Security Solutions is a contributor to the Security Industry Association’s education platform, “Center of Excellence” at https://www.securityindustry.org/center-of-excellence/.
Haines Security Solutions (HSS) Honored in 2019 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards for Fourth Consecutive Year
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Haines Security Solutions (HSS) is a veteran owned company that specializes in providing high-quality professional security consulting services relating to antiterrorism and personal protection.
HSS has extensive experience in developing security criteria for businesses and government agencies, and conducts asset specific threat/vulnerability and risk analysis using quanitative risk analysis and provides sensible mitigation strategies.
HSS conducts security engineering workshops and a variety of other security related training around-the-globe. Key Staff assists with the development of training plans, drills and exercise curriculum.
Learn More by visiting https://www.hainessecuritysolutions.com/.
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