I am often surprised at the amount of companies, listed and/or private, that are haemorrhaging due to serious organised crime attacks. It seems that many companies prefer to keep quiet about the effects of crime, lest it negatively influence their shareholders. Some believe that it may reflect poorly on their abilities to manage if they admit their losses to crime. Others simply just refuse to acknowledge that they are victims of crime.
This is, I believe, in itself criminal as it is misleading shareholders and allowing the criminals to simply continue with their actions. In short, it amounts to a fraudulent representation of the company. In times of a global financial melt-down, it is imperative that crime is tackled in an aggressive manner.
In South Africa, those that are supposed to police crime are very seldom keen to do their duty. Many of them are, indeed, part of the problem and not part of the solution. Whereas there are police officers trying to make an impact on crime, they are few and far between. Sadly though, success is not something that is evident in these counter-crime actions. Public regard for crime scene investigators and detectives is reaching an all-time low. Their lack of interest in attending to crime scenes is well documented with excuses as feeble as “we don’t have a vehicle…” Visible policing is seen by many to simply be a reconnaissance operation by men in police uniforms before they strike.
The police’s lack of will to seriously fight organised crime has given rise to a proliferation of security companies, some good but many simply exploiting the lack of policing. These companies hire men off the streets, place them in uniform and suddenly they have a security company they can sell to unsuspecting businesses. Before long, these companies know every weakness of the client they are supposed to be protecting. Often these weaknesses are exploited by the security companies themselves.
In order to effectively fight organised crime, companies need to understand the fundamentals of crime and the criminal networks they are up against. Once the criminal workings are understood, the companies need to seize the initiative from the criminals and regain control over their profit margins.
Simply knowing that they are losing money to crime does not solve the crime problem. Installing cameras is not the only or best way to counter crime. Technology has its limitations and can be circumvented – especially when there are so-called power outages. Creating a mini-fortress with booms, guards and fences simply makes a company prisoner to its own working environment and advertises the fact that it has something valuable behind the fortress walls.
Visible security measures such as fences and access control systems are an important part of the overall strategy to combat organised crime. But it is not the only action a company should employ to protect its premises, assets and staff.
Fighting organised crime is an action that should be planned in detail and should encompass many varied levels of action. These plans should be pro-active in nature and make provision for a host of different crime scenarios.
As the global economic melt-down continues, crime will escalate. Loose groupings of criminals will become more structured and organised. Their methodology will become more aggressive and their actions bolder. As their profits soar, they will become better armed, equipped and wheeled. They will also exploit the very obvious lack of policing to a greater extent.
The majority of companies are quite content to simply be re-active. It appears as though the premise exists that although crime is hurting profit margins, companies are still able to survive. If they are able to survive despite the crime, why take positive aggressive action? Indeed, if it may have a financial implication, why do it at all?
The indications that kidnappings, extortion, sabotage and the like are being planned are already evident. Will companies have pre-warning? I doubt it. Will they be able to react quickly in the event of the kidnapping of a senior executive? Unlikely. Do they know who within their ranks is feeding information to criminals? No, they don’t. Do they usually know anything about the company providing their security? Have they made the security company liable for any burglary, theft or other losses they may suffer while under their watch? Are security companies given a time-line in which to perform adequately and resolve the crime issues within a company?
Whereas a security company may give a warm, fuzzy feeling to the company, they are often there simply because someone is paying their salaries – and often it is a poor salary that would welcome an additional income. Visible they are, effective - not always.
To successfully combat organised crime, companies need prior knowledge. With prior knowledge (intelligence) criminal actions can be predicted and pre-emptive actions taken. Gathering this information requires the ability to identify the criminal gangs and penetrate and infiltrate them with trained agents. Professional agents, subject to regular polygraph testing and other loyalty checks, will be able to position themselves in such a manner that they can gather the information required.
Armed with the criminal intelligence required, the companies will be able to coordinate their fight against the crime threatening their businesses. Additionally, it will allow the companies under threat to seize the initiative and play an active and offensive role in fighting crime.
This approach does, however, require short-, medium- and long-term planning, coupled to the professional training and management of the agents. There are some companies that have adopted a pre-emptive approach to fighting crime and they ought to be applauded. Their security executives think “outside the box”, are professional, dedicated and protect the company as though it were their own. They are quick to take bold, decisive action. They view every possible threat as a challenge and they have the support of their senior executives. Their success grows from strength to strength – and nothing breeds success like success.
Sadly though, a great many companies in South Africa and elsewhere are still in the “crime-denial” phase. While they remain in denial, the crime syndicates play the field, dictate the profit margins and grow stronger.
Crime at government-level and trans-national crime is a topic for another day…
My next posting will look at the recklessness of confusing “strategy” with “gadgetry”.