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What have security services learnt from recent terrorist events?

NZ Security Magazine, Feb/Mar 2018

Nothing learnt from events overseas? Image: Maya-Anais Yataghène.Nothing learnt from events overseas? Image: Maya-Anais Yataghène.


After attending a major Brisbane sporting event, Jason Spivey, Managing Director, Security and Counter Terrorism Consultant at Tristate Group Pty Ltd, suggests that security services in the Commonwealth Games host state have learnt very little from international terror attacks.


In June last year I attended the final of the Super Netball (a premier sporting event in Australia) at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, which was attended by nearly 13,500 fans. Prior to my arrival, I resolved to make a concerted effort to take note of the security that was put in place before, during and after the event to see what, if anything, had been learnt and implemented as a result of recent events around the world. This is a summary of what I found.

What I found was quite disappointing and only reiterated to me that security in Australia is not only insufficient to deal with today’s terrorism threats, but that the industry appears to have learnt and implemented nothing as a result of recent events.

Upon arrival at the venue I, along with everyone else, was directed by traffic wardens to park in a designated parking area. The road leading to the main venue was blocked by orange witches’ hats and temporary fencing that was neither fixed in place nor suitable for stopping any form of vehicle-bound attack.

There was no security located at the vehicle entry point or near the parking attendants. As I walked to the venue I passed ZERO police and five buses parked directly next door to the venue itself. There were no vehicle bollards and plenty of pedestrians walking not only on the footpaths but on the roadways where vehicles were visibly travelling.

As I approached the ticket gate I saw my first two police officers who were standing and looking disinterested, on their own and about 50 metres from the ticket gate. They were taking no notice of the crowd as they walked past.

Within 20 metres of the ticket gate I saw three security personnel standing with electronic wands, randomly selecting people as they approached the gate. I simply avoided eye contact and walked a few metres away from one of them to avoid being searched as one of the persons accompanying me did the opposite and was searched.

The other three adults walking with me walked past without any issues. I then stood and watched as one of these guards stood there holding his wand for five minutes without approaching a single patron. There would have been in excess of 200 people lined up and congregating in this area.

I was then funneled into an area where backpacks and bags were being searched by guards who could be described as elderly and lacking in physical fitness.

And what were they looking for without actually pulling out the contents of the bags? Well the sign said deodorant bottles, marker pens and like items that can be used as missiles to throw on the netball court. Funny but I don't think I have ever seen that happen at a game of netball, but hey, sporting crowds of today can become quite violent.

A sign stated that no large bags or backpacks were permitted and would have to be checked at a room beside the ticketing box, yes right next to where we were being searched. The search of the bags were visual only, as security in this country has no legal right to search anything without permission and are cautioned heavily against actually rifling through bags for fear of being sued.

So, a torchlight search inside a bag and through we went to the main entrance where I swiped my ticket on an auto reader and then I stood amongst nearly 500 people congregating at the entertainment area. I finally saw another two police who were walking through. There was no more security to be seen after the entry point, only venue staff who were assisting with seating and entertainment.


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I cannot believe we are still doing searches of people at the venue entrance point, that police are scarce on the ground in areas where the public are gathered in large numbers and that we conduct a bag search at the one place where the most people are gathered.

A terrorist wants to cause the most damage they can, and once they get amongst a crowd of 250 people they are more than happy to let off the bomb in their bag, even if it’s lying on a table about to be searched.

Why have the search areas not been pushed back to a distance that considers a blast radius from a backpack size bomb? Why are random electronic body searches not conducted as people exit the carpark to reduce the ability to get amongst the larger crowded areas? Why are vehicles permitted direct access to the venue and the footpaths that are being used by pedestrians?

These are basic security measures that can be changed with little reputational impact in terms of the attending crowd. They simply move the threat from the crowded areas to an area further from the main mass gathering and entry point.

So, if this was the entry, how was the exit? I exited the main venue directly to where the  Governor General, who was in attendance, was parked. His vehicle clearly labeled with vice-regal flags on the front bonnet, and his security vehicle also highly visible if you know what you are looking for.

There were two uniformed police in the vicinity of the vehicle but nothing stopping a would-be attacker from approaching the vehicle. Those uniform police were not close enough to do anything.

I saw no security staff in this area or as I walked around the venue and back to my car. This was the first time I saw a large number of Police, but they were simply there to direct traffic. Their vehicle parked on the roadway, and they stood with their red wands directing vehicles out as pedestrians walked along the roads and footpaths.

So why are we so lax, why are security companies providing services to events not required to show competence in risk assessments and mitigation? How is such a high-profile event not attended by more police to instill public confidence in the ability of authorities to protect us?

Given these are the same people we are relying on to service the upcoming Commonwealth Games, I can see major issues if an event was to occur. Commonwealth Games Security organisers should be attending these major events and seeing these issues to ensure they are rectified. Placing our trust in the companies that are currently in charge and the staff they are hiring is placing the public and the competitors at risk.



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