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Retail and Venue Security Today: The Year Of Coronavirus

The landscape of the security industry has changed. The UK has seen two lockdowns due to COVID-19 which have devastated parts of the retail and entertainment sectors and created a new set of challenges for security providers, and for their officers who protect many of our businesses and public spaces every day. 

A report by researchers at the University of Portsmouth showed that thousands of security officers are being left traumatised after facing a constant tirade of abuse and violence while on duty: 750 security workers were interviewed and almost 40 percent of them were showing symptoms of PTSD. 

The report was in 2020, but abuse of security staff is reported to have worsened considerably during the pressures of lockdown and Government safety measures and restrictions.

Andy Cockerill, Operations Director at Lodge Service, says,

“We’ve had to adapt as a security service provider to the new challenges our clients face. Through training and use of our Intelligence Centre, we have helped to shape and support our clients’ policies for masking, social distancing, temperature checks, crowd management, queue marshalling, one-way systems and counting our clients’ customers as they enter and leave the premises.

“Frustrations are high, tempers can flair and we’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of confrontations. Customers can be highly strung and the officers are trying to de-escalate any situations that arise as best they can. It’s working. We’re delighted to see retail, leisure and entertainment business returning, with a 300 percent uplift in business just from our core clients, during the initial opening period.

“We have also been working with a number of testing centres and vaccine hubs, mainly in the Northwest, to ensure people are safe, as we all work together to fight COVID-19.”

Security Cost Savings

Lodge Service’s clients have seen cuts to their loss prevention budgets and continue to look to increase efficiencies with the consultancy’s blended and managed solutions more than ever. One major retail customer, despite their stores remaining open during lockdowns, has continued to operate with only around 10 percent of their loss prevention team. 

This has been successfully addressed by using Lodge Service’s national team of security guards and operational staff on a targeted basis. It has been supported by a recent upskilling initiative and new training program, to enable the rapid deployment of officers with a range of additional security, concierge and other skills.

In-store security teams have reduced in size as staff have been furloughed and non-essential roles reduced. This has added to the stress of retail employees and potentially increases the chances of opportunist theft. Lodge Service has developed an organised crime team that is active in support with investigations and evidence acquisition, as well as CCTV collation audits, interviews and compliance surveys in store.

A data analytics team, headed by Emily Powles, analyses incoming incident reports. Trending data on incidents and heat mapping give Lodge the information to make recommendations on how best to deploy resources to minimise losses. Covert surveillance solutions are used with a number of clients including pinhole cameras and standalone remote CCTV resources. Undercover workers operate alongside in-store teams to build up intelligence highly effectively.

Training Out Abuse and Violence

There has been an unprecedented level of abuse of shop staff, including security teams, particularly with physical assaults. Increased training of officers has given store teams an additional layer of defence. 

In the more high-risk areas, including parts of London and Birmingham, officers are trained to mitigate and deter anti-social behaviour. Training is by experts with experience in dealing with conflict management and physical intervention and officers are equipped with tactical vests and body-worn cameras that are connected to the Lodgic Intelligence Centre.

The new training program focuses on recognising frustration, even before any aggression occurs. Most of the physical interactions officers encounter are with individuals with frayed tempers rather than displaying outright aggression. 

Officers are trained to understand the signs and use the psychological training and tools they have for de-escalation. They also function as points of information, taking briefings from venue staff and acting as a concierge, providing members of the public with helpful venue information as well as security. This creates a better service environment and reduces the costs of security.

‘Chaperone’ services have become popular, where Lodge Service operators will meet store managers at closing time and provide protection while locking up and walking to their cars. Some store managers are collected by operators and driven to their own vehicle in more high-risk areas.

Crime Intelligence

Lodge Service collects intelligence from verified sources including local communications networks, partnerships and security forums to create risk alerts for clients and other interested parties, with data from the Lodgic Intelligence Centre. Information is gathered nationally too and risk alerts are distributed locally where relevant.

Remote monitoring of client premises has continued throughout lockdown, supplemented by property inspections, either by drive-by reconnaissance or by entering the property to check for damage. As store security teams start returning to premises, remotely controlled access and egress solutions are being rolled out.

These efforts by Lodge Service are to reassure staff and customers that returning to shops and venues is safe. The retail, hospitality and entertainment sectors have taken a major hit commercially during the COVID-19 crisis and the general public’s confidence in returning to the high streets is key to economic recovery.

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