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Residential Estate Security Handbook 2018

Health & Safety vs Security Risk ­Assessment II
October 2015, Security Services & Risk Management

Company X has items of extreme value that the shareholders desperately want to protect and thus it is decided that a security risk assessment should be conducted on the premises. The local security company is contacted and their best salesman is sent out to assess the company.

This assessor inspects the safe room where these valuable items are stored. “In my opinion, both the door and the walls are impenetrable. No one can get in so your items are safe. This is definitely a low risk area. A rating of ‘1’. No worries,” he says. “Now, what I would recommend is that we go back to the previous area as I have some products here that will work ....”

The company followed the salesman’s advice and purchased several expensive hardware items that were installed throughout the property, but the safe room remained as is. Not even a month later, thieves came in through the roof and stole all the valuables that were in this specific safe room. The shareholders called in an independent to review and reassess their security.

Many assessors make use of a grading system to determine risk. Unfortunately this method is a direct overflow from Health & Safety and is inaccurate as risk cannot be defined in terms of probability ranging from a 1 (little to no risk) to a 5 (extreme high risk). Risk needs to be viewed in regards to the opportunity present for a crime to be committed and not as an opinion in light of probability.

After a lengthy online debate, the owner of company Y challenged the independent to prove risk in terms of opportunity. He had recently had his premises evaluated on the grading system. The perimeter fence was rated as a low as they had recently mounted an electrical fence along the top. The highest score, therefore the area with the most risk, was allocated to the gate. Guards were stationed there 24/7 to remedy this as the salesman-assessor had advised.

The independent accepted the challenge. “Sure,” he stated. “Let me show you how an opportunity for a crime can be created.” Company Y supplied the independent with a fancy looking laptop, which although it looked good on the outside, it no longer worked. The independent placed this laptop inside of the property behind the low-ranking fence so that it was visible from the street.

Much to the owner’s surprise, the next morning the laptop was gone. The opportunistic thief had managed to climb over the fence and take the laptop during the night, despite the fact that there were guards posted around the corner at the gate.

The problem with the grading system is that it essentially remains a matter of opinion. I am short, unfit and have a fear of heights so I would not see myself scaling a 2 m high wall, as an example. This implies I would rate this wall as a low-risk, but to a desperate criminal, this very same wall will not present such a big obstacle and if he is determined, he will get over it. Remember that the criminal has a completely different mindset and this is why it is necessary to think out of the box and view security risk in terms of opportunity and not what you or I, or even the salesman, may deem as probable.

For more information contact Alwinco, +27 (0)71 319 4735,,

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Further reading:

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