Using data to stay secure

August 2018 Editor's Choice, Security Services & Risk Management, Residential Estate (Industry)

Security in residential estates is often seen as what can be done to protect the estate and its residents from the perimeter inwards. However, being aware of what is happening around you in the neighbourhood, so to speak, can have a significant impact on the way an estate’s security functions. But what can be done to keep estate security managers up-to-date on what is happening in the surrounding areas in order to keep the estate as secure as possible?

Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked Hallam Ford from Locstat to explain his company’s solution to broader situational awareness and how it can be applied in the residential market.

Ford explains that the problem we are faced with is that, in general, communities have developed the habit of creating silos around ourselves, in the false assumption that ‘the laager’ will protect them.

“Neighbourhood watches don’t patrol out of their area, private security companies have geo-fences around their patrol sectors, communities don’t talk and collaborate with each other – these are all silos. Residential estates, due to their design and secured boundary are usually guilty of inadvertently falling into this silo trap.”

This laager mentality leads to estates, and people in general adopting an introspective outlook to their security. If they are ok, that’s fine. “Unfortunately, due to the nature of crime and the criminals operating in our areas, this limited vision can put one at a disadvantage,” Ford says. “In a world of silos, who operates between the gaps? The criminals. They exploit the current approach with impunity.”

He believes that if we want to protect our homes, estates or suburbs, it is axiomatic that a macro approach is adopted. This macro security approach involves collaborating with one’s neighbours, mutually supporting each other, sharing information and working together.

“To realise true security and to start the shift from the existing status quo, where we wait for the thieves to strike. We need to all change how we do things, change the paradigm. We need to look over our electric fence, over our estate boundary, over our area boundary and start seeing as far out as our neighbouring community’s boundary as a minimum.”

In other words, we all need situational awareness, which will help us become aware of the risk or threats in our area and, at the very least, our neighbouring communities. This awareness creates a buffer for you and your neighbours, and makes the macro analysis of patterns and trends possible.

“In many areas in South Africa, criminals will hit an area and then move onto a neighbouring area when that area becomes too hot,” Ford adds. “The greater one can push your situational awareness out from your estate, the better. And if that includes the whole suburb, that’s even better.

“Wouldn’t it be great to get into the criminals’ decision-making cycle and know where they were most likely to target next? Mutual support is a principal of war in most developed military doctrines and we need to learn to support each other if we are going to realise security for ourselves.

“What is needed is for communities to have a robust and sustainable situational awareness capability in place.”

The capability he refers to involves crime reporting, analysis and availability of that data. The information and the situational awareness it generates is, arguably, the missing layer in the South African security context when looking at it from a multi-layered security approach. “Residential estates cannot live in isolation, ignorant of what the crime situation is in their environment,” Ford states.

The Locstat solution

Locstat Cx ( is a capability that empowers communities – and this includes residential estates – to achieve situational awareness, dominate the information picture across their area and, in addition to the powerful information capability at their fingertips, have a real-time command-and-control (C2) system to enhance their existing capabilities.

C2 allows communities and estates to track all neighbourhood watch patrollers, estate security and other cooperating security stakeholders. Ford says that Locstat is a powerful force-multiplier to which other capabilities such as licence plate recognition (LPR) analysis, tactical team tracking, drone tracking/streaming, etc. can be integrated.

“We believe this real-time Common Operating Picture (COP) environment will make for a highly potent crime prevention and fighting capability. We are finding that communities are now demanding a data-driven, intelligent approach to the security that they subscribe to and are starting to insist on a shift from a reactive to a proactive, and even a predictive, approach to security.”

A free service

The good news is that Locstat Cx is a free service to security-focused community organisations (such as neighbourhood watches, residential estates, farm watches, CPFs, etc). It is delivered as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, securely hosted in the cloud.

Locstat offers three main interface environments: a web-reporter environment (you can report, view reports, manage your account, generate analysis etc.), mobile phone app environment (via the Cx and Patroller app for Android and iOS), and a web-based, real-time, COP environment.

Locstat Cx can operate as a stand-alone capability and can be further enhanced by its integration with the company’s Locstat Sx service, which brings in private security, enabling them to become proactive and ultimately predictive in the provision of security to communities.

“Data is the missing innovation in the private security industry at present,” adds Ford. “This innovation will allow them to achieve their true potential and reduce our rampant crime epidemic.”

Where does the data come from?

South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, yet it is estimated that almost 50% of crime in the country is not reported. This means that even though the police service doesn’t share information with the public, even if it did, it would not have the full picture. Locstat Cx enables people in a community to report suspicious activity and crime related incidents through crowd-reporting.

Ford says membership of your Locstat community is controlled as you must be a verified member of that community to register – it is not an open-reporting system, for understandable reasons. “We encourage victims of crime to report into their Locstat community as well as reporting the same incident to the police.”

The products generated include heat-maps-on-the-fly, stats-on-the-fly, historical geo-search, real-time patroller tracking, and more. A community can then use this credible and granular information to help enhance and further enable their own activities by allocating resources at the right place and the right time.

Communities can also then support their local police force by sharing the data products with them, giving them a different and sophisticated perspective from the community. Locstat also allows private security to become more effective as they will be working off credible and accurate crime information and analysis.

Get involved

Although residential estates generally have lower crime rates than open suburbs, they are not completely immune to crime. Therefore, Ford advises that any crime that does occur should to be reported, plotted, analysed and estate security needs to enhance its security services to become pro-active, based on the data.

“In a low crime environment, it is very important that any crime that does occur is reported, known about and disseminated to residents as soon as possible so they can be informed and take their own security measures.

“Of course, estate residents still need to leave the laager to go to work and so forth. Residential estate managers should therefore adopt a macro security approach so they can inform their residents of the wider picture, offering additional value and risk mitigation to their residents.”

He also says estates should actively participate in their wider community security initiatives, such as their local neighbourhood watch. Residents should all become members, ideally assist with funding, and report crime into their crime reporting system and then benefit from the wider crime picture and situational awareness that that community provides.

“We need to start mutually supporting each other, creating win-wins between communities and the estates within those communities. If you are a resident of a secure estate, paying a security levy, this type of information should become standard if we are to take back the initiative from criminals who target our communities.”

For more information, contact Hallam Ford, Locstat, +27 21 683 3624,,


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