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Terrorism Prevention Strategies: AUCSO Conference Takeaways

By Sue Riseling, Executive Director

President David Bousquet and I traveled to Southampton, England, to attend the Association of University Chief Security Officers (AUCSO) Conference.  These are our colleagues who lead public safety and security departments at their respective campuses across Europe.  All are non-sworn security operations.  They held sessions for two full days at Solent University, convening numerous interesting and enlightening sessions; via this “after action” report, I would like to share some of what I learned. 

The British have been dealing with and combatting terrorism for many more years than we have in the United States.  In fact, in 2017, they suffered five attacks, with 36 dead and more injured.  They have disrupted 23 more, making 466 arrests in 2017, a 35% increase over 2016.  There are 600 investigations underway and more than 3,000 individuals of interest.  In their efforts, they have “looked into” more than 20,000 people. 

British officials label these incidents Directed Attacks and most come from DAESH (ISIS).  Some British civilians went to fight for the caliphate, and now, with the joint efforts of the United States, Great Britain, Iraq, and others, ISIS has been losing ground and being defeated. Those citizens are returning home.  This is of deep concern to British intelligence and local police. 

The speaker covered in depth the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in the Manchester Arena in May 2017.  Of the 14,200 people in attendance, 22 were killed and 512 were injured as they were leaving. The bomb was detonated outside the venue at THE END of the concert as everyone was leaving. This is a key takeaway to which we should respond.  Most of us with large venues do a tremendous job screening for risks and weapons upon entrance.  There are not as many opportunities to screen as people exit venues—as logic dictates that if they didn’t bring it in, they are not taking it out. 

Yet at an event’s conclusion, the area around the venue is at the greatest risk.  As the crowd streams out of a venue, the high density created by everyone leaving at once nearly always exceeds the density of people entering. Most attendees enter over a period of hours—while exiting is almost a unified activity.

Reviewing the plans for how you keep people and your perimeter safe while people are leaving your venue is a worthwhile task.  Additionally, not allowing your security readiness and vigilance to drop during and outside an event venue is important.  During the event, resources are often pulled “inside” and can leave areas vulnerable to nefarious actors planting something in the exit pathways. 

The British have developed a system called ACT, Action Counters Terrorism. Officials work with all venue managers and the public to make sure security is increased, awareness is up, and to help the public know they are key actors in preventing terrorism.  Similar to the United States’ campaign, See Something, Say Something, ACT has helped the British thwart terrorists. 

While the bulk of Association members are in Canada and the United States and much of IACLEA’s focus is in North America, our European colleagues are handling tough situations. We can all learn from each other.  I was very grateful to have attended AUCSO, represented IACLEA, and now to share some of what I learned while there.

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