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Success of commercial property lies in technology integration

Globally, the future of commercial property security lies in a greater integration with technology, says Clinton Phipps, CEO of Enforce Security Services, a member of Excellerate Property Services group.


View of Gateway Theatre of Shopping in uMhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal (photograph by Ruan Bezuidenhout)

“This is one of the key trends we have highlighted and adopted at properties where we provide security services, and we have a very capable technology business unit which has undertaken numerous extremely high value and sophisticated electronic security installations. While many commercial sites may have CCTV and access control systems, they lack full integration, which is crucial to successful implementation. Going forward, we believe it will be essential for companies that offer multiple security disciplines be able to effectively bridge the gap between technology and manned security. Many commercial property owners are not yet taking full advantage of the technology currently available, despite the fact that this is becoming more affordable and is cost-effective in the long run.

“With recent global events having made us very aware of the importance of security in shopping centres and other highly patronised commercial spaces, we see the trend moving from a relatively inconspicuous to a far more visible security presence. A major challenge in the security sector is to try to identify the criminal element among legitimate visitors and control access - while still ensuring free flow of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. And, although shopping centres are private property, visitors need to be treated as if they are on public property, especially when the centre offers public facilities, such as post offices, for example,” says Phipps.

Enforce Security Services currently has approximately 630 000sqm of retail property space under its protection nationally, including Gateway Theatre of Shopping and Durban’s Point Waterfront. Leading hospitality facilities where security is provided by Enforce include the Cape Grace Hotel and Holiday Inn Waterfront in Cape Town, Beverly Hills in uMhlanga in KwaZulu-Natal, Southern Suns Hotels Durban and Gallagher Estate in Midrand, Gauteng, which is one of Africa’s largest conference and exhibition venues.  Enforce is also responsible for security in strategic sites such as Koeberg Power Station and Dube Tradeport, with all their security guards National Key Point-registered.

Phipps says with global trends undoubtedly driving towards achieving a reduction in operating costs – including security, this should not in any way be to the detriment of capability and efficiency. “In fact the objective is to provide the same or better service for less. This is achieved by the genuine integration of technology with fewer, but in some cases slightly more qualified and more competent personnel, and needs to be coupled with multi-skilling.  As a result there is a shift towards offering not just a single service but a range of integrated soft services under one roof, such as parking, cleaning and facilities management, thereby achieving cost efficiencies.”

He says off-site monitoring is one of the ways in which increased efficiency is achieved via the use of technology. “Off-site monitoring enables landlords to shut down a specific area or zone within a centre that is not used after a certain period of the day, and then manage access control to that area by exception. This allows for a reduction of manned security in that area and a more effective deployment of resources. It can also be used to monitor and control areas that have very low traffic flow, but which still need a degree of access control. Video and voice integration allows an operator to interact with a visitor and then grant or deny access or egress – again translating into greater efficiencies and lower costs.”

He comments that here in South Africa and from a technological standpoint, while we have access to the same high international security standards, there is still under-utilisation of technology in the local industry. “Just as necessity is the mother of invention, crime trends drive innovation in security. South Africa has a very well established electronic security industry and in many cases, such as intruder detection and armed response, where demand has dictated development, can be regarded as being a global leader. We utilise CCTV systems, biometric access control, voice evacuation systems and remote video verification. In some instances development of systems was delayed due to poor infrastructure, for example, an historic lack of a stable broadband network inhibited the development of remote video surveillance.

“While difficult to accurately estimate, security has both tangible and intangible value and is increasingly important. It is also about perception, as today’s tenants are undoubtedly placing a higher priority on security than previously. It makes sense that it is far better to have security and peace of mind for landlords and tenants, with preventative measures in place, than to wait for an incident to occur or reoccur. Unfortunately, security is an area where some property owners first start to cut costs, however there is a broader cost attached to this. As soon as there is an incident or a loss has been incurred at the premises, one’s perspective changes.  In addition, legislators are starting to understand the link between Health and Safety and Security and are starting link them together. It is no use having Health and Safety compliance in regard to a property and not paying due attention to security risks, or utilising a non-compliant operator which will impact on the site’s health and safety position. It is also worth noting that there is ultimately an additional cost to utilising a non-compliant security services provider versus a compliant operator,” says Phipps.

Security also has a huge role to play in regard to the management and marketability of commercial property. More and more employers today are looking to provide a secure and pleasing environment for their staff, so that employees can focus their full attention on their core function and be productive, instead of being concerned about their safety - for example, when working late and then leaving the office, or in regard to the security of their vehicles (secure parking). Phipps makes the point that making people feel safe is also a state of mind. He also says while there are no minimum requirements for security in terms of law, most often there are minimum requirements in terms of the insurance of a property.

“Astute property owners perceive security as a means of adding value to a property. Our advice to owners of high traffic properties such as shopping centres, particularly those with a tourism element, is that planning is essential. They need to understand season and event-driven trends and adjust accordingly. Forewarned is certainly, as they say, forearmed. Shopping centres and tourist destinations require an intelligence gathering capability as in many cases criminal threats (such as armed robberies) are almost impossible to prevent without prior knowledge. Enforce has one of the largest special events divisions in the country which has provided security for most major sporting and musical events in South Africa, and also has a well established investigations division with an extensive informer network. Incident management is also crucial as reputational damage caused by poor incident management can have a greater impact than the crime itself. It is critical that evacuation and incident management plans are in place and that all personnel are trained to respond appropriately.”

Phipps adds that if the reality is that costs need to be reduced, there is a way to achieve certain objectives without compromising oneself or unduly exposing the property to security risks. One needs to find a solution-driven, quality compliant, professional operator to work with in order to source a higher value proposition and achieve the required objectives. 

All security companies in South Africa are required to be registered with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) in order to provide security services. There are also various voluntary industry bodies that work on improving the standards of the industry. Enforce Security Services is a Gold Class member of the Security Association of South Africa (SASA) and is actively involved in driving compliance within the industry.


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