For years, history has reflected the importance of perimeter defence. Whether a primitive palisade, high walls, castles and fortresses for defence, or barbed wire and electric fences, and patrolling guards; mostly the focus is of keeping dangers out.
The Trojan horse and gaining access to Troy was one of the earliest and widely popularised breach events, deployed to gain access to the interior of a defended area. It seems this technique is still popular given accounts I heard this week of criminals using a modern truck loaded with pallets (rather than a wooden horse), which they hid behind to gain access to airside in a major airport, showing the technique still has wide application. However, the focus on keeping things and people from getting out has not shown nearly the same dedication, unless you are working in places like prisons, high-risk biological labs, or sites working with precious minerals.
Yet one of the central themes associated with theft from any kind of site or operation involves the penetration of protection barriers outwards. Whether a casino, logistics facility, production enterprise, a precious minerals operation, or a shop where you buy your regular groceries, protection from internal leakage to stop stolen items becoming a torrential flow of material and affecting the organisation’s financial well-being is becoming increasingly important.
The main strategy to prevent internal loss has been the use of physical barriers and access control to prevent leakage. Much of the technology associated with keeping things out, is also used to keep things in, including metal detectors, goods x-ray, full body human x-ray equipment, and searching protocols. However, we know that the penetration of perimeter barriers to facilitate the removal of product is a key tactical element of criminal strategies.
It surprises me how often there are a lack of cameras or specified operator focus on infrastructure and vulnerable points within the perimeter. Using cameras provides a great chance to use crime behaviour detection to identify the signs that criminals are compromising your perimeter protection measures. I see three main points to such camera use:
• To preserve the integrity of your protection infrastructure.
• To audit that processes and procedures are in line with expected standards.
• To ensure that people do not have the freedom of behaviour that would enable them to compromise security precautions and facilitate theft.
Safeguarding high-risk areas
One of the key internal security strategies is to define high-risk areas and safeguard the perimeters around them. Additional perimeters for lower risk areas may be set, or naturally delimited by the infrastructure or environment around these high-risk areas. High-risk areas define themselves by the likelihood of theft, usually because of a high value or portability of product. At a casino roulette table, the area of high value chips in the float are a focus of attention, as well as the perimeter of the layout where chips move in and out.
Security then extends to the perimeter of the gaming table where positioned people may behave in ways to cheat or steal, then to the perimeter of the gaming floor through which people may move or within which syndicates may operate, to the perimeter of the casino building and finally to the perimeter of the whole casino property. In this way, effective detection of early threat conditions on the furthest perimeters can lead to a lockdown or enhanced protection and control over high-risk areas, before they can be affected.
For example, in the case of a casino robbery, the detection of suspicious vehicles or vehicle movement outside the entrance can indicate preparation for a potential robbery, and can be proactively addressed. Entry of a known or targeted suspect into a store can result in increased surveillance, especially when moving through the perimeters of areas of high value products or commonly stolen items. Inversely, compromising of a high-risk area that may involve theft of chips off the layout or float, can lead to a quick recognition of behaviour around the table and sealing off the gaming area or exits to the casino.
Similarly, storage of cellular phones, or other high value electronic items in a vault, secure room, safe or handling area should be monitored and audited with cameras. This ensures that people do not move items through to an area with a less secure facility, without adherence to procedure. If detected it should be possible to track the suspect through the various areas, with the last resort held at the store or production facility exit.
Detecting suspicious activity at the perimeters
Shifting things through perimeters from one area to another using concealment, disguise or packaging, to areas where protection is not as much of a priority is a common theft technique. Ideally, the crime behaviour or violations of procedure associated with unauthorised movement of goods should be identified at the core area, although with each perimeter crossing it still means there is some chance of detecting the theft.
Crime behaviours that assist in detection of theft would include unusual positioning around high value items, introducing or using blind spots, looking around, loss of natural body flow due to tension, and increased levels of anxiety. Where electronic tagging systems are used to protect perimeters – operators need to be able to recognise the signs that people are using equipment to compromise tags, including specific foil bags used in the industry, or packaging containing foil, or other methods used to move tagged items beyond detection points.
Perimeters are not only around the sides of a site, but they also exist to separate higher and lower areas. Especially in some environments where there are multiple working levels and where items or material can be dropped, spilled, poured, or cascaded down to less protected working areas or places where material can be accessed or even concentrated for greater value more easily. Use of drones has also been reported as a way of moving material up out of otherwise restricted areas.
Operators would need to look for people in areas they do not expect them to be. Excessive loitering in a particular area, unusual carrying of containers or tools, leaving boxes open or not replacing them back in position correctly, carrying unusual packages or parcels, time spent around trollies or materials due to be moved to another area or through airlocks, and behaviour such as crouching or bending over can all indicate potential issues.
Waste material is often used as a facilitator to get things out of an area, with the items often concealed underneath material that may be unpleasant or difficult to get to such as kitchen waste, or in cleaning trollies and dustbins which may legitimately pass through perimeters. Where a company in retail or logistics deals with returns, packaging can be used to hide or substitute items, or lack of control can lead to theft of items before reintegration into the inventory. Waste bins near despatch points represent potential risk areas and may easily be used to hide or store items for later collection.
Two sides to a perimeter
Movement and positioning around perimeters are key considerations when viewing cameras for possible theft activity. This may be complicated somewhat by the volume of movement of people who are in that area for conventional purposes, whether it be people outside the perimeter using a thoroughfare, people taking a route home, and logistics or production activities that occur as part of the normal day’s routine. However, the fewer people normally in that area, the more we can use cameras to identify people of interest for further viewing.
Even when there are numerous people, the patterns of movement will often make theft type of activity noticeable if one is looking out for it, especially if these happen around vehicles, doors, passageways, gullies, piles of debris or materials, overhangs, tree clusters, rock outcrops, riverbeds and deliberately introduced blind spots. I am still amazed when I see unsecured and unmonitored emergency exists, or doors to a warehouse, supposedly locked, but have people moving in and out from time to time.
Suspicious movement around the outside perimeter may not reflect intent to get into the operation, but collection of items or material that have been moved to the perimeter by being deliberately thrown, left, or channelled to a location outside of the infrastructure or property perimeter by inside theft activity and removal of product. That means we have to use cameras to monitor and review behaviour on the inside perimeter of these areas to see if there is behaviour linked to what we are seeing outside.
Conventional areas such as dispatch, collection and access control are key areas to look at to protect against loss, and monitoring transactions at these interfaces are important; activities such as validation of correct people, processes, volumes and waybills may be done remotely.
I have come across numerous cases of holes pierced in metal or brick walls and used for smuggling material through the sides of infrastructure. Pipes inserted through walls. Material being diverted using valves in existing pipes to waste or disposal areas, or even transport vehicles. Unmonitored use of emergency exits to move goods out. Use of smoking areas that allow access to balconies outside, to throw or drop goods on the outside of the facility. Toilet windows interfacing with the outside, ventilation pipes and facilities, and drainage systems, and even a case with a front-end loader tipping gold bearing material across an outside fence.
Movement and behaviours on the inside of the perimeter should therefore be monitored, particularly when there is little reason to be there as part of normal operations. In such cases, just being there without any kind of justification can mean the person becomes a target of interest and the focus of the CCTV operator. Together with coordinated behaviour of someone outside the perimeter that may strongly suggest collection rather than trying to get into the premises.
Internal dynamics and behaviour
Management therefore needs to pay careful attention to internal dynamics and behaviour around perimeters, as well as outside threats. In one case, I watched a thermal video of a suspect trying, for ten minutes, to get out of a residential estate. Not detected by operators or video analytics on a camera at the time, because all analytics were exclusively set to outside the perimeter fence. In another instance, a missing package had finally been detected, almost at the outside perimeter disposal. Shown to be an accident, rather than theft, purely because cameras placed in a position that allowed one to audit how the package got through the various perimeters, and the behaviour and intentions of those who happened to handle it through sections of the workspace.
Camera audits can establish both guilt and innocence. As I indicated, criminals will attempt to pierce walls or surrounds in order to move things out and both physical inspections as well as camera monitoring of behaviour in these areas can prove invaluable in maintaining infrastructure integrity. The process of moving high value items internally needs auditing, and behaviour around vulnerable locations needs to be checked and explained.
Audit of movement of high-risk product, in particular, needs to be done on a regular basis, as well as checks of goods or items around possible access areas that could be easily collected and passed through. Constant violations of procedures governing access, unusual handling of goods, empty boxes or containers of product lying around or hidden behind other goods, unauthorised use of exit areas around the site, and movement to unexpected perimeter areas can demonstrate that the organisation has a major issue with potential loss and a likely impact on bottom line profitability.
Dr Craig Donald is a human factors specialist in security and CCTV. He is a director of Leaderware which provides instruments for the selection of CCTV operators, X-ray screeners and other security personnel in major operations around the world. He also runs CCTV Surveillance Skills and Body Language, and Advanced Surveillance Body Language courses for CCTV operators, supervisors and managers internationally, and consults on CCTV management. He can be contacted on
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