Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
July 29, 2014

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Safe Cities: Will Glasgow be Safer after the Commonwealth Games?

Glasgow bridge nightCosting £90m – treble the original budget so true to form for huge sporting events – the Commonwealth Games security operation has been the largest and most expensive Glasgow has ever seen.

But how much of this outlay will produce benefits felt beyond the 11-day event’s conclusion? Put simply, will Glasgow be a safer place once the Games have finished?

Breaking down silos

Heightened terror risk and the influx of hundreds of thousands of extra people demands a greater, more unified effort between emergency services, local and national government and the private security industry.

Forcing different agencies to cooperate and share information more readily, the Commonwealth Games might create fresh communication channels and help break down the silos that block efforts to create integrated, ‘smart’ cities.

“As with any City that has undergone an event with global focus, Glasgow can benefit from having their everyday processes and procedures ’tightened’ up to account for the influx of many tens of thousands of people,” says Dave Gorshkov CEng FIET, a consultant specialising in safe city planning and homeland security.

“This includes refining emergency preparedness and procedures for dealing with emergencies during a major event as well as improving inter -departmental communications links across the city, and indeed the wider community.

Asked which physical elements of the Commonwealth Games security operation might leave a lasting legacy, he continued: “As with London and the Olympic legacy, Glasgow will benefit from the additional buildings for competitors as well as improved transport links and road improvements.

“Part of the legacy will also be improved control-room technology as well as increased and improved surveillance assets such as CCTV and VCA technologies.”

Blurring boundaries

The reward of enhanced surveillance capabilities will hardly please everyone of course.

Politics and the London 2012 Olympics: the (in)security Games described “an increased securitization of the host city and other Olympic event locations which has the potential to leave a lasting legacy”.

Published in the in the International Affairs journal by Barrie Houlihan and Richard Giulianotti, the paper observed “a steady blurring of the boundary between external and internal threat, between military defence and civilian policing, and between war and peacetime security.

“The Olympic Games and other mega-sport events become opportunities not only to test and refine security technology and strategies, but also to assess the level of public acceptance of increased levels of surveillance.”

The City of Glasgow opened a cutting-edge operations centre to in the run-up to the Games. Monitoring the city’s CCTV, traffic lights and traffic cameras it will certainly provide lasting benefits to the city.

“They had a vision beyond the Commonwealth Games,” says Jamie Wilson, security marketing manager EMEA at NICE, which provided the the NICE situator, a situational management PSIM solution, and the NiceVision video management platform. “One of key drivers up there was being future-proofed, so that they could integrate new innovations down the line in three or five years time.”

However, Wilson believes the new operations centre’s existence was not contingent on the Games. “I genuinely don’t think the Games were a key factor in getting the new technology.”

Glasgow Community Safety Glasgow, which is jointly owned by Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Police Authority, paid for the new tech with a £24m grant from the Future Cities Glasgow Programme.

Much of the £90m outlay of course will be for short-term security solutions, so those decrying the wastefulness of spending £575m on an 11-day sporting event still have plenty of ammunition.

“There are always ’temporary’ elements to any event,” says Gorshkov. “Just look at some of the festival events that go on around the country that bring in additional systems and security for the period of the event.

“The Commonwealth games will be the same in many respects. Certain systems are likely to be permanent and left in situ, whereas many others will have been installed for short periods. Turnstiles, security search areas, fencing, lighting and perimeter surveillance are amongst the systems ‘hired’ for the event, although some facilities will benefit, including new roads and transport hubs etc.”

London 2012 lessons

Can the London 2012 Olympics help us answer the question as to whether Glasgow will be a safer place when the circus leaves town on Sunday 2 August?

Soliders on the streets, HMS Ocean moored with Lynx helicopters aboard, Special Boat Service commandos on the river Thames, missiles perched atop tower blocks: none of these sights endured beyond London 2012 – and a good thing too.

As for more prosaic elements like CCTV, the UK already had more security cameras per citizen than anywhere in the world. However, the Westminster CCTV control centre, which monitors 120 central London cameras from a subterranean control room, did enjoy a £500,000 ‘Olympic revamp’, which gave many of the capital’s cameras an upgrade.

Or course, one of the world’s most affluent cities – and indeed, a CCTV control room so envied that it’s attracted delegations from 30 countries – would surely have upgraded soon enough anyway, though the Olympics at least hastened things.

Although the underground Westminster control room now oversees 40 fewer cameras than it did at its peak, officials claim the latest upgrade has “improved image quality by up to 400%”.

“If you visited many areas of the Olympics it was clear that these were only ever going to be temporary,” says Gorshkov. “Horseguards being the obvious example! As nice at it would be to keep a beach volley ball arena in central London it was only ever going to be short-term.

“The transport security upgrades that the BTP [British Transport Police] put in place, as well as Docklands light rail,  however, are all staying so this bears out the view that certain key infrastructure was always planned to stay. Glasgow will and should benefit in some of these key areas as well.”

The Commonwealth Games, then, might help to fracture the barriers dividing silos, boost operational efficiencies and test out new technologies and methodologies in the most challenging of circumstances.

Unavoidably, however, there’s an opportunity cost to the £575m spent on the two-week event. Money spent on temporary facilities and security measures this year means a smaller municipal budget, including for security, next year.

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