Everyone a Human Radar

Why your staff should be the first line of defence

Suspicious Person Observation Training (SPOT) should now be a priority for security managers of crowded and public spaces in order to improve the ability of their workforce to detect suspicious behaviour.

So, what exactly is SPOT and what are the benefits?

As a former Assistant Chief Constable, I had the portfolios not only for Crime and Operations but also Counter Terrorism. There was always a need to ensure organisers of events and those responsible for the safety of large crowds such as shopping malls and stadiums, had the very latest information on best practice and were encouraged to embrace strategies and tactics that were proven to reduce risk.

Often however, the focus was on physical structures and placement of CCTV and Control Rooms, quite an expense bearing in mind they also had to adhere to certain standards and build quality.

Thankfully for security managers, SPOT is a low-cost high impact tool to deploy, which can be introduced without employing additional staff.

The SPOT tool enhances people’s natural ability to identify a potential offender and crime in the making. Although designed with terrorists in mind it applies equally to those who seek to commit crime or cause problems. There are tell-tale signs and behaviour ‘signatures’ that suspects cannot hide well and are picked up by trained staff. Resources can then be deployed to monitor and deter before the suspect has a chance of even preparing to commit crime.

Prior to SPOT, security guards were often simply deployed at key points such as entrances and communal areas, and left to their own devices to reduce risk, usually simply by their physical presence. Occasionally they would be made aware of certain individuals who were ‘known’ and to keep an eye out for them.

These are valid tactics, but they have their limitations and are predominantly reactive as opposed to preventative. Security managers want an early indication of potential threats and they will only gain this by having the capability to identify suspicious behaviour as early as possible.

SPOT is based on behavioural detection methods that have been developed over the past few years in America and the UK and drawing on human behavioural science and can easily be imparted to all with some basic training. SPOT can be delivered at your location or in a training environment. In addition, the training itself will assist security on the day as it takes place at the coal face with classroom requirement of only a few hours to explain the system and then put it into action.

I remember as a police officer there were always those who were good thief catchers, those who could walk into a crowded area and pick out those who were up to no good. They had a feel that something wasn’t right. This was often borne out of many years of working the streets and using their experience and intuition. SPOT can impart that skill to all your staff and make everyone a human radar.

If you are responsible for crowded places or events and are serious about risk reduction SPOT can add an effective tool to your armoury and is a cost-effective solution. Prevention is always better than having to respond to what need not have happened.


Bob Pennington MEPS

Policing and Security Advisor

Edson Tiger