Sitting in a cafe in town, I was watching a middle aged woman who was either having a really bad day or just hated her coffee. It was obvious she had been there for a while as her coffee had a film over it.
Then I got thinking. She was exhibiting a hell of a lot of the signs that in a security role would have drawn my attention to her. For instance:-
|Point||Visual Observation||The Woman|
|1||Aged 15 – 40. This age group is generally fit and strong. Historically in UK, from foreign groups||Mid 30’s, Dark skinned,
“Asian” style scarf on head
|2||Inappropriate bulky clothing i.e. long coats in summer or a dry day.||Baggy “puffer” coat but it is winter. The cafe was hot, the coat zipped up.|
|3||Female bombers may be wearing clothing that is ill fitting as it is covering explosive.
Clothing may appear to be too loose or excessively long or the sleeves too long for the person.
|Couldn’t really tell but the coat was obviously big and well worn.|
|4||A robotic laboured walk which looks like a person is carrying a heavy load or have restricted mobility. Most body bombs weigh 5 to 15 kg s.
That’s not a great weight BUT the vest they are wearing will be awkward and therefore restrict their movements ESPECIALLY if they have to pick something up.
|Stationary not applicable|
|5||They may be on some sort of drugs so look for wild staring eyes that will be unfocused.||Definitely unfocused, vacant|
|6||Because of the drugs and the high stress a bomber is under, they may show signs of irritability, sweating, tics, or nervous behaviour.||Gently rocking|
|7||Their breathing looks wrong and a bit “controlled” with shallow slow breaths. The bomber will be trying to control their anxiety and adrenaline rush by breathing slowly to prevent hyper ventilation.||Couldn’t tell|
|8||Staring, tunnel vision, almost like target fixation.
They will be totally unaware of what is happening round them so may bump into things and other people with NO apparent realisation that they have done so.
|Fixated on nothing, staring into emptiness, not reactive to kids
running round by here.
|9||They may be carrying a large hand bag. This bag will never leave or change their hands as it is wired to the explosives.||Large bag hard against her side|
|10||You may not see the person’s hands.||One hand on table, other not seen|
|11||Recently shaved beards, haircuts, and new westernized hairstyles to blend in.
You may see visible tan lines.
|12||Mumbling prayers in an ethnic language as they walk. Just before they detonate, they may yell religious phrases or “Death to . . . .” rhetoric.||Mouth moving but no sound coming out|
9/12 boxes ticked.
I wasn’t too worried as down town where I live isn’t as attractive a target as blowing up London might be, but I mentioned it to a shopping precinct security guard I know there and the reaction was “different” to say the least.
Two of them walked straight over to the woman who at first didn’t react to the “You all right luv?” question.
Then, one put their hand on the woman’s shoulder and got roughly the same reaction as poking a bull in the backside with a cattle prod.
The woman jumped up, yelled and ran out LEAVING THE BAG BEHIND.
I was so out of there.
From across the car park, I saw the still stunned security guard pick up the bag and tip it on the table. No bang but wires from a Walkman type thing and a few large books.
Later that day I bumped into my friend who told me that the woman had come back for her bag with her “keeper”. She was under treatment for stress and had gone for a walk and the drugs she was on had kicked in a bit heavy. That was all.
For me it was an exercise in observational security (profiling if you like).
An exercise that got me thinking the worse yet was it over reaction or not?
In today’s “terrorist minded world”, I don’t think a bit of over caution is unwarranted.
What it did prove though was that the security guards were untrained and idiotic in their actions.
One heated discussion later, with no less than the security firms “boss”, he finally admitted that their approach was less than ideal and they would retrain their security personnel to react more sensibly in the future. What were the problems?
- There was no procedures in place OR PRACTISED with possible bomb scares.
- There was no training in profiling or the handling of “distressed” individuals.
- No assessment of information received was carried out, their central control had not been informed.
- The staff in the establishment weren’t quietly informed what the concern was.
- Two security personnel in uniform basically surrounded the person of interest.It should have been a LOT more low key.
Simply losing the jacket with SECURITY plastered over it and quietly sitting opposite the person COULD have had a less dramatic reaction.
- Even if the woman had bolted, tipping out the bag onto the table was ABSOLUTE STUPIDITY especially as there were wires and “block” objects within.