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The Covent Garden Market control room, installed by G1

Security shake-up

Published:  17 January, 2007

Licensing for public space surveillance CCTV operators came into force on 20 March 2006, which means it is now illegal for contracted staff to work without a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence. The ins and outs of who does and who doesn't need a licence have been an issue this year within the security industry.

Jeremy Waud, managing director at Incentive FM, believes that many shopping centre managing agents, facilities management companies and security firms do not fully understand the details of this legislation and are at risk of severe penalties.

Incentive FM was in fact one of 16 companies recently reprimanded for breaches of the Private Security Industry Act (PSIA), although their own non-compliance was relatively minor.

Waud explains: "Security staff working directly for the building owner do not have to have a licence. However, if these staff are transferred to a third party contractor they need to be licensed from day one, despite the fact that it can take around four months to get a licence. It's not enough to just be in the process of training."

Getting a licence requires four days of off-site training plus £200 per employee, and the same again for a manned guarding licence.

"A worrying number of clients are receiving misinformation about this from their contractors," adds Waud. "Security staff employed directly by the building owner or occupier who are not trained, certified or licensed as either a manned guard or CCTV operative for public space surveillance, find themselves in no man's land in the event of a transfer - be that to either a managing agent or a contractor. In many cases, at the point of transfer the law is likely to be broken."

The PSIA has created a minefield for shopping centre owners and managing agents who have had their work cut out this year understanding its implications.

Trudie Cummins, senior surveyor in retail asset management at Cushman & Wakefield, says: "The biggest problem we've had is taking on shopping centres that have been bought by our client, but which are owned and run by a managing company set up by the owners; so therefore, effectively, I have interpreted the security staff to be in-house employees.

"Then they've come over to us and they're not licensed. If licensing isn't in place immediately then they're in breach of the law. There's no clarification as to what 'in-house' really means and whether or not managing agents can be exempt.

"We've dealt with it now but there has to be some allowance for that sort of situation."

The SIA describes in-house staff as anyone employed directly by the company for which they provide security services.

But despite all the confusion and problems along the way, shopping centres are now reaping the considerable benefits of having trained security staff.

EFM Security has ensured it's ahead of the competition by training all of its personnel to be licensed in both static and retail security, and in CCTV.

Shaun Murphy, national operations manager at EFM Security, believes that for a security team to work together effectively they must understand all the elements of the security process. He explains: "As specialists in the retail security market, our teams are relatively small, but highly skilled. By giving our staff an in-depth knowledge of both CCTV and retail security they have a much greater understanding of the entire process, which means they can use that knowledge to their advantage."

One example of how proper training delivered outstanding results was when two EFM Security officers, working at a shopping centre in Kettering, received commendations from the local police after they carefully tracked a violent criminal on CCTV throughout their shopping centre for half an hour, recording a clear, full-facial profile. This evidence directly assisted the police with the arrest and conviction of the man, who was later found guilty of attempted murder.

Murphy adds: "The licensing system has made a huge difference in the control rooms. Prior to licensing, they were rarely run properly, and tape and digital imaging was of such poor quality that it was often impossible to use it in a court of law.

"The whole point of a control room is to track, report and prevent crime. To get a good image you have to have approximately 120 per cent magnification on your system and zoom right into a person's face to be of any use to a prosecution lawyer. You also need to record and back up systems correctly, so that when the police want to use that evidence they have clear and accurate information."

MITIE Security agrees that the introduction of licensing has had extremely positive results. Rob Parker, sales and marketing director for MITIE, says: "Whilst many of the larger security specialists were already providing training, the licensing process has provided a degree of consistency and has certainly helped in raising standards across all areas of the private security industry.

"This has been especially true with regard to the licensing of CCTV operatives, where training has helped to improve their skills, enabling them to better identify potential 'hot spots' or problem activity that could adversely affect the experience or perception of the centre's customers. The training has also helped security teams to deal with potential issues before they develop into something more serious.

"Furthermore, the training of CCTV operatives in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act means that the centre management team can be confident that the process is managed by individuals who understand the necessary requirements and implications."