Recently Lynn, MA police arrested a Russian national taking pictures of a 12-million gallon liquid natural gas storage tank. A police patrol hired by the facility owner apprehended the individual in a restricted area with a variety of photographic equipment. The State’s Anti-Terrorism Task Force is conducting the investigation of the incident.
This incident illustrates two different items from recent blogs on this site, counter-surveillance operations (see: "To Stop an Attack, Spot the Surveillance") and the use of police as security personnel (see: "Security Forces at Chemical Facilities – Sourcing Security"). There are a couple of lessons to be learned from this incident.
First, this has not yet been determined to be a terror related incident. If this was a terror attack in the surveillance phase, that attack has probably been prevented. If this is a well-trained terrorist, we may never know if it was part of a planned attack. We will have to wait for the results of the on-going investigation to see what the results are.
If a trained counter-surveillance team had been involved they would not have arrested this person on the spot. They would have followed him, conducting a covert investigation to try to undercover the details of a potential plot. This is not a criticism of the police who arrested this individual; lacking a planned counter-surveillance operation they did the appropriate thing.
A full-blown counter-surveillance operation is only conducted when other intelligence indicates the possibility of a terrorist attack. Lacking that intelligence, facilities have to rely on security personnel and site workers to be observant for unusual behavior. Without a counter-surveillance operation in place, security personnel should detain any unauthorized person found in the security zone.
Police as Security Personnel
In our discussion of police as security personnel we looked at using police for incident investigation and response operations. This facility demonstrates another way that police can be used in security operations. This facility has hired off duty-police officers to be their security guards.
This is a relatively low-cost method of getting well-trained security personnel. It has the added benefit of providing security personnel equipped with, and authorized to use, firearms. Additionally these security guards have full arrest powers; a definite advantage in incidents like this. Off-duty police officers may also retain their communications capability with police headquarters, aiding in rapid and informed police response to incidents.