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Amongst the many negative consequences of the pandemic is a rise in violent and abusive behavior across society. Health workers have experienced it on a regular basis. So too have police officers and public transport workers. Unfortunately, violence and abuse towards shop workers is also endemic in British society. To address this problem which, in truth, has been on the rise since long before the emergence of COVID-19, we need better deterrents. The ability to prosecute these offenses is one such deterrent, but just as important is the ability to deescalate situations before they spill over into unacceptable or unlawful behavior. Major retail customers In both instances, organizations of all sizes are now recognizing that the answer could involve greater use of rapidly advancing body worn camera technology. Andy Marsh, the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, is one of the police officers responsible for introducing body worn cameras to the UK police force, where they are now in widespread use. Andy Marsh is one of the police officers responsible for introducing body worn cameras to the UK police force He explains that “The reason the majority of people don’t speed or drink-drive is that rational human beings weigh up the risk and consequences of breaking the law and getting caught. Body worn cameras help provide appropriate ‘desistance’, especially where there are forward-facing screens so the person interacting with the wearer can see themselves and their behavior.” Evidence shows that if a forward-facing camera is switched on before the intervention becomes hostile, it will generally lead to a de-escalation – as often as 90% of the time, according to one of our major retail customers. Digital evidence investigations Only a tiny handful of abusive incidents ever translate into arrests and prosecutions. A key issue is a lack of clear evidence – how to get past the usual impasse of one person’s word against the other. Body worn cameras break the deadlock and allow organizations to report incidents to the police with confidence, knowing that they will lead to action. Marsh suggests that “We usually see an earlier admission, an earlier guilty plea and a more appropriate sentence, where body worn camera footage is in play.” The technology has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. For example, it’s now possible to record high-definition footage on a lightweight device that’s barely the size of a palm. And it’s not just about the evidence organizations gather themselves. Many police forces are looking at ways to make it easier for businesses and the public to collaborate on digital evidence investigations. Body worn cameras This is good for the victims of crime because it means we get the evidence more quickly" “We’ve created an online crime portal in Avon and Somerset which people can use to pass digital evidence and material to us without an officer having to attend their premises. This is good for the victims of crime because it means we get the evidence more quickly and can take action more swiftly to resolve that issue,” adds Marsh. Our body worn cameras can now even support facial recognition thanks to new, smart AI on the devices themselves, which can scan and process faces within a three-meter distance against a pre-defined database of people (which we call a watchlist). Any matches trigger alerts or additional camera activity such as recording and streaming, while the facial recognition data of people not on the watchlist itself is not recorded or saved to assuage privacy concerns. Similar criminal behavior Where could this technology come in handy? Well, staff at gambling venues or in-store retail workers could undoubtedly benefit from the ability to quickly spot known fraudsters or addicts who have requested that venues refuse their custom. Stewards at mass sporting events could play a key role in helping to identify people who have been banned from attending. The primary reason for using body worn cameras is to increase the safety of frontline workers The primary reason for using body worn cameras is to increase the safety of frontline workers, deescalating confrontations and limiting the use of force. AI-powered facial recognition can also serve this purpose by helping them make better-informed choices about how to handle specific situations. For example, it is a massive advantage to police officers on the beat to understand that the person they are dealing with may have a history of similar criminal behavior. Facial recognition technology But it’s also an advantage within retail, where aggressive incidents are on the rise and staff need all the help they can get to determine what an appropriate response should be to a particular customer incident. In fact, extensive consultation with our retail, police, transport and gambling customers indicates that introducing facial recognition technology to body worn cameras could be instrumental, not just in helping to prevent crime, but in tracking down vulnerable and missing people too. Of course, facial recognition technology has to be balanced against the need to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens. Video recording using body worn cameras has to be done proportionately – the same is true for the use of facial recognition technology. The technology also has to be compliant with GDPR, Data Protection, the Information Commissioners recommendations and so on. Positive working environment Violent and abusive incidents affect everyone in the immediate vicinity and create a culture of fear Importantly, it should be for a specific, proportionate and justifiable reason which, of course, means it should never be used for indiscriminate mass surveillance. Every organization using this technology must remember that a facial recognition system match is not proof of someone’s identity, but rather, an indication of likelihood to help inform the user rather than dictate the course of action. Violent and abusive incidents affect everyone in the immediate vicinity and create a culture of fear and apprehension. This is why it’s so important to get on top of the problem – both on a societal and at an organizational level. Body worn cameras have a vital role to play, as an evidence-gathering tool and as a deterrent that empowers the wearer and creates a more positive working environment. Deterring unlawful behavior One of the critical roles these cameras play is in staff training, providing real-world video evidence that can be used to educate and upskill workers across a variety of industries. Society’s problem with abusive and violent behavior cannot be solved by technology alone. But with exceptional quality camera footage now a reality, and the possibility of AI technology at the device level in real-time, body worn cameras will only get better at deterring unlawful behavior and helping to protect hardworking frontline staff. Alasdair Field is CEO of video technology provider Reveal, which works with UK police forces and major brands such as Matalan, JD Sports and Boots to help them improve staff safety, deescalate confrontations and reduce violent and abusive incidents.
James Twigg is the Managing Director of Total Integrated Solutions (TIS), an independent life safety, security and communication systems integrator, specializing in design & consultancy, technology and regulatory compliance. Total Integrated Solutions work primarily with retirement villages, helping to ensure the safety of residents in numerous retirement villages across the country. In this opinion piece, James shares how smart technology is helping security teams and care staff alike in ensuring the safety and security of their spaces, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Impact of smart technology Smart technology is having an impact on pretty much every aspect of our lives Smart technology is having an impact on pretty much every aspect of our lives. From how we travel, to how we work, to how we run our homes. It’s not unusual to have Alexa waking us up and ordering our groceries or Nest to be regulating the temperature and energy in our homes. And while there’s a popular misconception that people in their later years are allergic to technology, retirement villages and care homes are experiencing significant innovation too. And the result is not only improved quality of life for residents, but also improved safety and security systems for management teams. Switching to converged IP systems I’ve been working in the life safety and security industry for over fifteen years. When I first joined TIS, much of the sector was still very analog, in terms of the technology being installed and maintained. Slowly but surely, we’ve been consulting and advising customers on how to design, install and maintain converged IP systems that all talk to each other and work in tandem. I'm excited to say retirement villages are some of the top spaces leading the way, in terms of technological advancement. Improving the quality of life for residents A move into a retirement village can be daunting and one of the key concerns that we hear about is the loss of independence. No one wants to feel like they are being monitored or to have someone constantly hovering over them. One of the ways we’ve used smart technology to maintain residents' independence is through devices, such as health monitors and motion sensors. For example, instead of having a member of staff check-in on residents every morning, to ensure they are well, sensors and analytics can automatically detect changes in routine and alert staff to possible problems. Similarly, wearable tech, such as smart watches give residents a chance to let staff know they are okay, without having to tell them face-to-face. As our retirement village customers have told us, a simple ‘I’m okay’ command can be the difference between someone feeling independent versus someone feeling monitored. Simplifying and improving security systems Smart technology gives care staff and security oversight of the needs of residents For the teams responsible for the safety of the people, places and spaces within retirement villages, smart technology is helping to improve and simplify their jobs. Smart technology gives care staff and security oversight of the needs of residents, and ensures rapid response if notified by an emergency alert, ensuring they know the exact location of the resident in need. And without the need to go and physically check-in on every resident, staff and management can ensure staff time is being used effectively. Resources can be distributed where they are needed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those residents who need extra consideration. 24/7 surveillance When planning the safety and security for retirement villages, and other residential spaces, it’s no use having traditional systems that only work effectively for 12 hours a day or need to update during the evening. Surveillance needs to be 24/7 and smart technology allows that without the physical intrusion into people’s spaces and daily lives. Smart technology ensures that systems speak to each other and are easily and effectively managed on one integrated system. This includes video surveillance, which has also become much more effective as a result of advanced video analytics, which automatically warn staff of suspicious behavior. Securing spaces amid COVID-19 This year has, of course, brought new challenges for safety. COVID-19 hit the retirement and residential care sectors hard, first with the initial wave of infections in mid-2020 and then, with the subsequent loneliness caused by the necessary separation of families. As essential workers, we worked closely with our customers to make sure they had everything they needed As essential workers, we worked closely with our customers to make sure they had everything they needed during this time, equipping residents with tablet devices to ensure they could stay connected with their families and friends. It allowed residents to keep in touch without risking transferring the virus. Thermal cameras and mask detection And now that we’re emerging out of COVID-19 restrictions and most residents can see their families again, we’re installing systems like thermal cameras and mask detection, so as to ensure that security will be alerted to anyone in the space experiencing a high temperature or not wearing proper PPE. Such steps give staff and families alike, the peace-of-mind that operational teams will be alerted at the earliest possible moment, should a COVID-19 risk appear. Thinking ahead to the next fifteen years, I’m excited at the prospect of further technological advancements in this space. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about how complex your security system is or how you compete in the industry. It’s about helping teams to protect the people, spaces and places that matter. I see smart technology playing a huge role in that for years to come.
As the COVID-19 pandemic wanes and sporting venues open-up to full capacity, a new disturbing trend has hit the headlines - poor fan behavior. Five NBA teams have issued indefinite bans on fans, who crossed the line of unacceptable behavior, during the NBA playoffs. Major League Baseball stadiums have a recurring problem with divisive political banners being strewn over walls, as part of an organized campaign, requiring fan ejections. There was a brawl between Clippers and Suns fans after Game 1 of their playoff series. And, the U.S. vs. Mexico Nations League soccer game over the Fourth of July weekend had to be halted, due to fans throwing objects at players and screaming offensive chants. Cracking down on poor fan behavior Security directors are consistently reporting a disturbing uptick in poor fan attitude and behavior With players across all major sports leagues commanding more power than ever before, they are demanding that sports venues crack down on poor fan behavior, particularly when they are the targets of that behavior. Whether it’s an extension of the social-media divisiveness that’s gripped society, or people unleashing pent up negative energy, following 15 months of social isolation, during the COVID-19 global pandemic, security directors are consistently reporting a disturbing uptick in poor fan attitude and behavior. They’re also reporting a chronic security guard shortage, like many businesses that rely on relatively low-cost labor, finding candidates to fill open positions has been incredibly difficult. Low police morale To add the third component to this perfect storm, many police departments are struggling with morale issues and officers are less likely to put themselves into positions, where they could wind up in a viral video. According to the Police Executive Research Forum, police officer retirements in the U.S. were up 45% in the April 2020 - April 2021 period, when compared to the previous year. Resignations were up 18%. In this environment, officers may be less likely to undertake fan intervention unless it’s absolutely necessary. This can seem like the worst of times for venue security directors, as they need more staff to handle increasingly unruly patrons, but that staff simply isn’t available. And, because the security guard staffing industry is a commoditized business, companies compete almost solely on price, which requires that they keep salaries as low as possible, which perpetuates the lack of interest in people participating in the profession. Digital Transformation There is only one way out of this conundrum and that is to make security personnel more efficient and effective. Other industries have solved similar staffing and cost challenges through digital transformation. For example, only a small percentage of the total population of restaurants in the U.S. used to offer home delivery, due to cost and staffing challenges of hiring dedicated delivery personnel. Advent of digital efficiency tools But with the advent of digital efficiency tools, now virtually all restaurants can offer delivery But with the advent of digital efficiency tools, such as UberEATS and DoorDash, now virtually all restaurants can offer delivery. Likewise, field-service personnel are digitally connected, so when new jobs arise, they can be notified and routed to the location. Compare this to the old paper-based days, when they wouldn’t know about any new jobs until they picked up their work schedule at the office, the next day and you can see how digital transformation makes each worker significantly more efficient. Security guards and manned guarding The security guard business has never undergone this kind of digital transformation. The state-of-the-art ‘technology’ has never changed - human eyes and ears. Yes, there are video cameras all over stadiums and other venues, but behind the scenes is a guard staring at a bunch of monitors, hoping to identify incidents that need attention. Meanwhile, there are other guards stationed around the stadium, spending most of their time watching people who are doing nothing wrong. Think about all the wasted time involved with these activities – not to mention the relentless boredom and ‘alert fatigue’ from false-positive incident reporting and you understand the fundamental inefficiencies of this labor-based approach to security. Now think about a world where there’s ubiquitous video surveillance and guards are automatically and pre-emptively notified and briefed, when situations arise. The fundamental nature of the security guards profession changes. Instead of being low paid ‘watchers’, they instead become digitally-empowered preventers. AI-based screening and monitoring technology This world is happening today, through Artificial Intelligence-based screening and monitoring technology. AI-powered weapons-detection gateways inform guards, when a patron entering the venue is carrying a gun, knife or other forbidden item. Instead of patting down every patron with metal in their pockets, which has been the standard practise since walk-through metal detectors were mandated by sports leagues following 9/11, guards can now target only those who are carrying these specific items. Video surveillance and AI-based analytics integration Combining surveillance video with AI-based advanced analytics can automatically identify fan disturbances Combining surveillance video with AI-based advanced analytics can automatically identify fan disturbances or other operational issues, and notify guards in real time, eliminating the need to have large numbers of guards monitoring video feeds and patrons. The business benefits of digitally transformed guards are compelling. A National Hockey League security director says he used to have 300 guards manning 100 walk-through metal detectors. By moving to AI solutions, he can significantly reduce the number of scanning portals and guards, and most importantly redeploy and gain further operational efficiencies with his overall operational strategy. Changing staffing strategy This changes the staffing strategy significantly and elevates the roles of guards. Suddenly, a US$ 20-per-hour ‘job’ becomes a US$ 40-per-hour profession, with guards transformed into digital knowledge workers delivering better outcomes with digitally enabled staffs. Beyond that, these digitally transformed guards can spend a much higher percentage of their time focused on tasks that impact the fan experience – whether it’s keeping weapons out of the building, pro-actively dealing with unruly fans before a broader disruption occurs, or managing business operations that positively impact fan patron experience. Digitally transforming security guards Perhaps most important, digitally transforming security guards elevates the profession to a more strategic level, which means better pay for the guards, better service for clients of guard services, and an overall better experience for fans. That’s a perfect storm of goodness for everyone.
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