Selectamark Consultancy’s Alan Moss talks about the UK Security Industry and the role of APPSS

The Association of Police and Public Security Suppliers (APPSS) is a non-profit-making trade association which exists to serve UK companies whose business is manufacturing equipment and supplying services including training and consultancy to public security agencies worldwide. This includes police, prisons, customs, immigration, fire and all Government security agencies including those of the defence ministries and military services.

APPSS is a dynamic, pro‑active organisation that is dedicated to the support and promotion of UK companies within the public security sector across the UK and worldwide. It also works closely with the Home Office; the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Inspectorates regarding the home public security market. The Director, Police Scientific Development Branch acts as Home Office adviser to the association which is appointed to manage the PSDB’s annual technology and equipment exhibition. Close working relationships also exist with the Foreign Office and Department of Trade and Industry (UK Trade & Investment) in connection with overseas links and export support activities.

The Association derives income from a fee-paying membership of over 250 individual British companies. The Association has no financial interest in any contract, bid or tender opportunity and provides a free service to police and other agencies by publishing tender opportunities and equipment requirements to the industry.

The Association, owned and managed by its members, embraces the wider, UK security industry when acting as a UK Government approved organiser for exhibitions and export initiatives. It is governed and guided by a 12‑strong committee of industry which meets quarterly to review initiatives and activities, thus ensuring regular updating and adjustment to changing security priorities worldwide.

The UK industry in the security sector is a world leader and APPSS regards itself as the servant of the international public security community with a philosophy that law and public security officers everywhere should have the opportunity of being provided with the best equipment available.

Today’s world presents everyone in business with fresh, tough challenges. The security industry is no exception to this, but there are some distinct and serious issues which we have to address if we are going to deliver the best quality of service to our customers. These three issues are, firstly, the ability to keep pace with the latest technology; secondly the expertise to give our customers advice across the whole security-related field; and thirdly to form business partnerships to improve the width and depth of our service, both at home and abroad.

Current security threats come at us across a far wider spectrum than in the past. The physical security measures which we have traditionally given advice on now seem very straightforward issues. Preventing unauthorised access to premises is not just against burglars and walk-in thieves, and designing out crime opportunities is well established as a principle; we now worry about access by means of hacking into an organisation’s computer systems, and by electronic eavesdropping. This is more complicated and technical. We need to be able to understand the issues and to provide an appropriate defence in a number of layers for those who rely upon our help.

Then there are the problems of staff dishonesty which can now involve sophisticated misuse of computers. Theft seems increasingly to be accompanied by what police officers would traditionally have described as fraud, and therefore more complicated and specialist. This is simply because information technology is an everyday part of people’s working lives, and the computer has to be adjusted to hide the theft which has taken place, or in order to carry out the dishonest transaction. Sometimes the computer makes detection easier, sometimes more difficult.

Property marking has always helped with recovering stolen property, but technology now enables us to use tracking devices to locate stolen cars and goods containers on a world-wide basis with a remarkable degree of accuracy. Technology brings opportunities as well as problems.

Terrorism no longer comes in the form of a specific campaign against one country because of long-standing political grievances over who governs a country, or part of a country; terrorism now tends to be a global phenomenon without regard to political frontiers, and wars (against al-Qa’eda, for instance) have taken place accordingly. The new doctrine of international pre-emptive strikes in self-defence has created international tensions and new grievances which have exacerbated old situations which themselves were complex enough already. Terrorists who are prepared to commit suicide are not even deterred by the thought of death, so that throws into doubt the old reliance on some security measures and assumptions. Baggage in an aircraft’s hold is not necessarily safer because every item is linked to a person travelling on that aircraft; September 11th 2001 changed all that.

Aircraft security can only be properly enhanced if all countries, airport authorities and airlines contribute together; the complex picture of modern flight patterns and interchanges is so complicated that nothing else will suffice. But international collaboration and diplomacy are relatively slow.

And it is not just in the air where transport-related security problems arise. The Madrid bombings were aimed at rail transport in a country the war in Iraq was an election issue. But leaving aside the difficulties of making our train systems more secure, let us not forget that over 95% of world trade is carried by sea. Some of that trade is in a seriously explosive form when one considers the nature of the gas, oil and chemicals carried in modern ships, and how large some of them are. They could be targets.

Shipping is a truly international business. A ship’s captain, crew and owners can often all come from different countries and cultures even without the additional complication of the vessel flying yet another country’s flag to indicate responsibility for its maritime administration. Controlling the whole system is extremely difficult. The new emphasis on security at sea may not always be seen as being equally important in all parts of the world, especially where extra security measures require time and money for implementation, and this will frustrate the countries, like the USA, who are most motivated to bring in additional controls. The UK is, of course, high up on the terrorist’s list of locations and we cannot afford to let our guard slip. The national effort involves us all.

So how do we make sense of the security environment and these complex threats which our customers also need to analyse and face?

Are the companies in the security industry up to the new challenges? Do we as individuals honestly have the expertise to advise properly on all these aspects? Can we afford to adopt an approach which simply aims to sell our own special product to the client, and disregard their other problems?

Selectamark is one company which has adopted a new partnership approach to face the future. We see the way ahead as needing a strategic approach in at least three key areas.

Keeping up with technology

The first issue is keeping up with developments in technology, and making sure that innovations are robust and workable. This is not just by using sophisticated CCTV and alarm systems. Building on their expertise from the Selectamark property marking systems, the company has expanded into electronic solutions such as the Sentry biometric pass system. This gives enhanced security by providing a capability of checking the pass holders’ identities against algorithms of their fingerprints. We believe that this is likely to be more robust than iris technology, but only time will tell.

The new e-plate system identifies motor vehicles passing certain check points, regardless of line of sight. The computer controlling both these systems can be used to create a database to track movements and to provide records which would never have been possible under traditional methods, and this provides an opportunity for integrating the security measures with other commercial activity. The tracking of goods containers and staff entering busy sea ports is a good example where looming security concerns can be met by new technology and provide additional checking without compromising the commercial imperatives for efficiency and the rapid transit of goods to meet industry’s “just-in-time” delivery schedules.

Another area is the development of databases which combat insurance fraud by allowing insurance companies to search for previous insurance claims on an international industry-wide basis. The system, developed by JJR, one of Selectamark’s business partners, also copes with Chinese script, reflecting the importance of the overall size of the Chinese economy, which, on current projections, is due to overtake Britain, and possibly Germany, in the next few years.

Providing expertise across the whole spectrum

Selectamark’s approach has been to create a consultancy and to draw into that team a wide and flexible mix of specialists, including recently-retired personnel from Scotland Yard, the military, and other agencies to ensure that advice is available to our customers across the board. This can include the physical protection of buildings, computer security, anti-fraud measures, anti-explosives defences and VIP protection. Sometimes the consultants are employed direct; sometimes a business partnership agreement is drawn up.

Most recently a partnership has been formed with Marinserve, a consultancy providing maritime surveys, and, through YG Consultants, maritime-based training programmes. As a result the company now provides a full range of services to shipping concerns, and can apply the best solutions from the security world and marine disciplines. This has resulted in our ship security surveys and plans being approved first time on a world-wide basis from the UK to Panama.

YG Consultants and Selectamark are Government-approved training providers for port facility, company and ship security officers to meet the demands of the new International Ship and Port Facility Security Code which will come into force on 1st July. Every international passenger ship and cargo ship over 500 gross tonnes will have to have undertaken a ship security assessment and to have developed a ship security plan in order to obtain a ship security certificate. Ships will not be able to trade without a certificate after that date. The structure adopted by Selectamark and its partners has enabled us to respond to this sudden burst of activity in a flexible and efficient way.

The ability to look comprehensively at all of a client’s needs over the whole spectrum of security issues makes it easier to find an attractive option which demonstrates a clear business case and a sensitivity to the client’s commercial need to protect their bottom line.

The training capability also extends into crisis management and helps to bring junior security staff firmly into the client’s response in emergency situations.

International dimensions

Staff at Selectamark Consultancy have worked abroad in Jamaica, Japan, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates, but the need for security to be intelligence-led often requires local expertise to be brought on board. Selectamark’s partnership approach is therefore aimed at developing links with carefully chosen local companies in countries such as Australia, Hong Kong and the Middle East in order to keep the best quality service available to clients.

The way ahead

The commercial and strategic approach outlined above is not different from what any sensible business would plan for its future. We must react to changing circumstances in the world. We must provide a quality of service to our clients which aims at excellence. And we must find a way to achieve all this within our own business budgets and commercial realities. If we do not succeed, the terrorists may do so.


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