Archive for 2016

Bags Will be Filled

179-015‘Tis the season for families and friends to get together. For some, this means travelling to loved ones or taking a vacation. It is also the time when bags get packed with gifts and goodies, but not by Santa Claus. I am talking about criminals who are waiting to find empty houses and take advantage of the holiday season. Here are some ways to protect your home and yourself over the holidays.

  1. Secure Your Valuables

If you are leaving a car parked on the street or driveway while you are away, make sure you remove all valuables from plain sight. This includes any clothing, electronics, bags, etc. Even if you leave your car in the garage, you should also remove all valuables to make sure they remain safe if someone breaks into your garage. It is also wise to place any important documents and jewelry in a safe inside of your home, a safe deposit box or a hidden secure location.

  1. Don’t Post Your Travel Plans Online

Although you might be excited about your vacation plans and want to share them with friends, it could end up being an invitation for thieves. This is especially true if you do not have strict privacy settings on your social media accounts. You are sharing this information with people you do not know. That is why it is important to be aware whenever you are posting your travel plans and location online.

  1. Have a Family Member, Friend or Neighbour Check In

Tell someone you trust — such as a family member, neighbour or friend — that you will be gone so that they can be on alert for any suspicious activity. Give them a spare key so they can go to the house daily to make sure everything is OK and bring any mail or packages inside. Mail piling up is a dead giveaway that no one is home.

  1. Hold Mail and Deliveries

If you cannot have someone you trust stop by your home to check the mail every day, call the postal service and request a hold on your mail until you are back home. You should also consider holding any deliveries or regular subscription services you receive at home, like newspapers and magazines.

  1. Make It Look like Someone is Always Home

Keep all blinds and curtains closed when you are not home. Have your lights set on a timer or solar switch while you are away, to make it appear as if someone is always there. This could help to ward off any would-be invaders.

  1. Lock All Doors and Windows

This one is a given, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Make sure all your doors and windows have working locks and remember to remove all spare keys to your house or any keys sitting in locks throughout your home. This is important because someone could get into your house, steal these keys without you knowing, and then use the keys to gain access to your home again in the future. Also, it is important to remember to not run any extension cords through windows for your outdoor holiday lights. This prevents the window from closing properly, and burglars will see this as an easy entry point.

  1. Install a Home Security System

Whether you are home or away, a home security system can give you the peace of mind in knowing your home and valuables are secure.


Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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Holiday season in Retail

For retailers, the holiday season is the most important time of the year, as this is when most of their revenue is generated. Unfortunately, it also the time of year when theft increases.

A recently published report revealed the downside of holiday shopping, which included increased shrink, significantly impacting a retailers’ ability to see a healthy profit margin during the final quarter.

According to the 2016 retail holiday season global forecast, retailers are expected to experience both their heaviest sales volumes and their weakest performances as it relates to margin rates during Q4, due primarily to increased shrink and theft from both internal (employee theft and fraud) and external (shoplifting, organized retail crime) sources.

The report stated that in North America, the holiday season contributes roughly 34% of a retailers’ annual sales base but also incurred 37% of its annual shrink loss. Overall, shrink during the fourth quarter is about 15% higher than the rest of the year.

“This time of the year there are a variety of different things impacting brick-and-mortar stores. On one side of the fence, there is the traditional mindset that people think about Black Friday, the fourth quarter and the holiday season as being robust and beneficial for retailers when it’s actually somewhat the opposite in many cases,” retail loss prevention analyst and report author Ernie Deyle says.

There are a few things that retailers can do to prevent an increase in shrinkage. It all starts with a holiday plan (play book) that outlines the specific measures that need to be taken. It is important to make security a part of the overall plan. Although security is usually driven by the security department, loss prevention should be the responsibility of all store associates. The plan should be detailed and cover the extra measures that need to be put in place as well as detailed task lists. Most retailers will ask for additional guards or loss prevention officers. They also need to ensure their CCTV systems and other security devices are in working order. It is important to train staff in advance and conduct daily briefings, so staff members and security personnel are aware of their specific roles. Areas with increased risk of theft should be identified and turned into zones with increased customer engagement with staff. The task list can be divided into three categories such as opening, closing and during business hours.

The opening task list should contain elements like:

  • Checking merchandise for proper security (tags)
  • Ensuring the electronic article surveillance (EAS) gates are working for high traffic
  • Validate locked areas (merchandise cabinets) and perimeter openings
  • Validate that all PIN pads/payment devices are secure

During business hours, it is key to recognize suspicious behaviour and increased risk factors, such as:

  • People coming in with empty or large shopping bags
  • People taking merchandise into bathrooms
  • Heavy clothing and unusual attire
  • People with strollers or carts
  • PiIing stacks of merchandise
  • Overly friendly people asking question as a distraction tactic
  • People paying extra attention to the location, checking cameras
  • Moving merchandise from busy areas to more remote places in the store

The closing task list should contain elements like:

  • Conducting a thorough walk of the store
  • Checking fitting rooms, bathrooms and corners of the store
  • Validate locked areas and doors
  • Ensure that all pinpads / payment devices are secure

I surely hope that the holiday season will give the retailers good sales and a healthy margin with no incidents to speak of.

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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The Security Guard Profession

blog-2Security is an industry that will never go away. With all the potential threats in today’s society, more and more businesses are in need of help to protect their property, assets, and people. However, it is a profession that is not addressed often enough.

Almost every form of business utilizes security, and the duties of a security guard can vary drastically depending on the employer and assignments. It is for this reason, hiring the right guard for the right position is critical to the success of the security provider and the security professional.

Over the course of my fourteen-year career in security, it has been rewarding to work with so many interesting and talented people. Some for only a few years while pursuing their education for another profession. About 7 years ago, a security guard I worked with got accepted into dentistry school. He worked with us for three years to make ends meet, and every free moment he would be studying. When I found out he got in, I was so proud of him. I was pleased that we were able to provide him with a schedule and site that would work for him. I find there are many reasons why people apply to become a security guard. However, these seem to be the most popular:

  • Immigrants trying to find stability in Canada
  • Ambition to get into law enforcement
  • Stop gap measure while pursuing their aspiring career
  • Employees choosing security as their profession

As a manager, it is so important to understand the goals of our employees and place them in positions where they will succeed. It is so gratifying employing security professionals that stay employed at ASAP as their chosen career. However, it is just as rewarding seeing our security personnel pursue their dreams whether it is in law enforcement or another industry.

blog-1I read an article from the Toronto Star last week that sparked my attention. The article was about an immigrant that came to Canada and worked as a security guard while pursuing his career. I found his story inspiring. He was working as concierge security in a condominium while taking courses to as a journalist/writer. Mayank Bhatt eventually wrote a book titled ‘Belief’, and it is now available at Indigo. I went out of my way to buy this book, as I wanted to support this former security guard.

Getting to know the people that work on the field is such a gratifying part of my career.


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The Necessity of Protection Services in Canada

I had a discussion among several security professionals about five years ago. We discussed the need for high-quality protection services in the Canadian market. The consensus was that there was not going to be high demand in a country as safe and secure as Canada. Our environment was considered very different from the market in the US and South America. Since that discussion, a lot has changed. Terrorism is not a strange phenomenon anymore, and violent incidents are on the rise. Protection services are being used for all sorts of situations, such as a high-risk termination. Having an agent present in the room or close by will have a deescalating and calming effect. There are also many larger scale events where protection is required; AGMs and conferences where protests are expected, such as in the forestry or nuclear industry. Pipelines are often controversial and attract protestors who are against building pipelines on aboriginal grounds or through nature reserves.

For example, just a few weeks ago, thousands gathered in downtown Vancouver on Saturday to protest Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project. At the same time, at the other end of the country, about a thousand people gathered in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto to protest President-elect Donald Trump and his proposed policies.

In general, when an event creates risks to employees or the public, there is no question about the need for an immediate, safe resolution. To prepare for a potential crisis is vital. A provider of protection services should formulate a detailed plan customized for their client’s needs. The plan needs to outline the scope and describe how decisions will be made and what resources will be deployed against predetermined threats. It should also specify all the relevant details of agents involved, contact and escalation protocols and what if scenarios. It is beneficial to include client training to ensure their awareness of any security vulnerabilities and to teach control tactics.

Hopefully, the proactive measures being taken will limit the incidents of future protests and other high-risk events.

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“What Worries the World?”

There was an interesting study published by IPSOS relating to the identification of the top five worries within North America. The study found that the top two contentions held by American citizens are terrorism, and crime and violence. Overall globally, socio-economic and security concerns were listed as the leading ‘worries’ to improving the well-being and quality of life.

The results indicate the following:

Top five global issues Top five US issues
1) Unemployment (38%) 1) Terrorism (35%)
2) Financial / Political Corruption (34%) 2) Crime and Violence (33%)
3) Poverty / Social Inequality (33%) 3) Healthcare (29%)
4) Crime & Violence (31%) 4) Unemployment (23%)
5) Healthcare (22%) 5) Immigration Control (22%)


What is of particular importance is the focus of the study. The survey was meant to add clarity to whether citizens felt their country was heading in the right or wrong direction concerning these worries. (I should mention that the evaluation was not limited to just North America). There was a global survey as well, but I would like to keep this closer to home and ask if you feel we are going in the right direction or not. Individual and community security are an important dimension of development. I find it interesting how in some countries security and socio-economic concerns can directly go hand and hand. I wonder if security issues and ‘worries’ improved, would socio-economic concerns improve as well.

Do we agree that these top two considerations are in fact on par with the vibe out there?

The premise of this study was to determine if citizens believed their country was on the ‘right track or wrong track’.

Country Right Track Wrong Track
US 36% 64%
French 12% 88%
China 90% 10%
Saudi Arabia 71% 29%
India 67% 33%
Globally 37% 63%


It is also interesting to see which countries believe that they are on the right track. Why and what makes them think this? The countries that believe they are on the wrong track are provided with information freely. Despite where we place our judgement I think most would agree that safety is important now more than ever. I think we are starting to take the right steps by focusing the policing sector on these top two concerns, and by allocating lower level threats to the private security sector. You can read more about this in Han Koren’s recent blog entitled, “Non-Core Policing – A Shift in Thinking”.

Being privy to the security sector puts me in both a fortunate and unfortunate position, depending on how you look at it. The positive side of it is, knowing that there are options that are being considered by many experts to ensure the best solution is brought forward.

It is refreshing to know that the commercial, private and public sectors are collaborating to achieve the best results. I can only hope with this shift in thinking that we can start to put a dent in these top two concerns in order to maintain and propagate a safe and secure home for all of us.

What are your concerns? Is Canada on the ‘wrong track’ or ‘right track’?


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How Important is Customer Service?

img_5533On my way to a work conference in New Brunswick, I had to take a flight from London with a layover in Toronto. This was not going to be an issue since I had some work I needed to finish on the flights and layover locations. Unfortunately, my good intentions were interrupted by unforeseen events. During our takeoff from London, I noticed a strange pulsing noise coming from one of the propeller engines but did not think much of it, as each plane seems to have a different sound during takeoff. Soon after we got up to cruising altitude, I heard some sputtering from the left propeller engine. A few minutes later, I looked out the window and saw it had stopped spinning. The plane made a 180-degree turn and headed back to London for an emergency landing. Upon our decent, I could see the airport runways were empty except for a bunch of trucks with flashing lights lined up along the sides. The pilots did a great job on the landing, considering they had to come in fast with one working engine. I only wished that the airline’s customer service had done as good of a job as their pilots did.

The plane malfunction was not necessarily the airline’s fault, as the issue may not have been detectable during their maintenance checks and thus would have no control over preventing it, but everything afterward was within their power. After exiting the plane, I was very relieved that everything went well but concerned about how I would get to New Brunswick since I was going to miss my original connecting flight. Once I got back into the airport, we were greeted by an airline agent who told us that we could either wait in a big line to get rebooked or could call a special number they had. I opted to call the number, as I needed to get to my conference as quickly as possible.

After waiting a while on hold, I was finally able to speak with someone live. What I thought would be a quick, and easy process ended up being a horrible experience. The person on the line made it seem like it was my fault that I had to rebook my flight and that it was a huge inconvenience for them. Finally, after 45 minutes of being on the phone with them, they told me that they would rebook me for a flight later that evening, but from Toronto, and just before they confirmed the booking, I got disconnected. I called back right away and had to wait on hold again before speaking to someone new. They then told me that I had already been rebooked but for the next day with multiple layovers. So again after another 45 minutes of explaining my situation and how I needed to get to New Brunswick as soon as possible for a work conference (while driving from London to Toronto in rush hour traffic), I finally got my flight changed back to the original rebooked one in Toronto.

I have never received such poor customer service in my life. I have always prided myself on giving the best customer service possible and am very proud to work for a company who believes in the same principals. It has been almost a month since the flight, and I have not heard back from the airline, even though I have called and sent multiple emails. This experience has solidified my belief in how important great customer service needs to be and even just a small gesture could have gone such a long way.

I hope that the next time you have something go wrong on your end; you can think back to all the situations you have been involved in and how you would have wanted the outcome to unfold before taking action.

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Non-Core Policing – A Shift in Thinking

The idea of police concentrating on core assignments and moving other tasks to the private sector (security industry) is nothing new. However, in the last two years, the topic has gained more interest to reduce the growth in budgets.

As police salaries have continually increased over the past decade, the Liberal government now has to face the unenviable task of telling public servants to hold the line. Police are one of the biggest costs for municipal taxpayers and it just keeps growing. This is also the case for provincial police (OPP), but small municipalities are hit the hardest because they do not have a large commercial and industrial tax base to rely on.

One solution is to contract out non-core police duties to security firms. Police officers that make the ‘sunshine list’ are taking routine reports, acting as receptionists at police stations, giving parking tickets and doing the work of administrative assistants. Well-trained security staff can perform these types of duties for less than half the cost. There is no logic in having a police officer directing traffic around a construction site. The security industry does not want to replace police officers, but simply to play a role fulfilling the routine work that doesn’t require police training. With today’s ongoing threats of terrorism, the police service has more important tasks to concentrate on.

Toronto is seriously looking into this issue. In June of this year, an interim report was published “The Way Forward: Modernizing Community Safety in Toronto”. Although the report centres around improving the quality of service, it also recognizes the need for cost reduction and changing primary tasks. The report contains 24 interim recommendations and is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Various proposals may lead to some police tasks, such as paid duty, shifting to the security industry. The current process of paid duty is not well understood and often puts the reputation of the Toronto Police service at risk. The final report will include working with a risk assessment model to ensure off-duty police officers are only used in a paid duty capacity where their skills, authority, and training are necessary.

We will follow these developments closely.

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Road trip to the east coast; what an experience!

My family and I took a 2-week vacation from the hustle and bustle of Toronto life and decided to take a road trip to the East Coast of Canada.


Everyone told me to leave work behind and to enjoy my vacation. Believe it or not, that felt stressful. I just could not imagine going on vacation and being out of touch with work.

Work life balance! What exactly does this mean?

I know for me, work is an integral part of the person I am, and family defines me. However, if you tell me not to worry about work until I come back, that would just create anxiety and tension during my vacation, which is completely counterproductive.

For the first time in my career, I think I figured it out. I realize now that work-life balance is unique to each individual. Finding your happy place is important.Vacation2

If you Google work life balance, you will see so many different philosophies on the best approach. An article that I came across resonated with me. It said, “Vacations are a precious opportunity to relieve stress, spend quality time with family and friends, and experience different cultures and lifestyles. The benefits of vacations are considerably diminished, however, when work follows you from the office to the airplane or campsite.

The reality is that many vacations can quickly become an extension of work. A guided tour gets interrupted by a conference call, a
day at the beach gets swallowed up by answering emails, and dinner is postponed to complete a proposal. While you might not be able to leave work at home completely, there are ways to reduce its presence so that you can better enjoy your vacation”.
During a previous vacation last year, shutting work down completely caused me to have more stress and anxiety. I was worried because we had so much on the go with proposals and start-ups, I just didn’t feel comfortable being on vacation.

This time, I wanted it to be different. I wanted that time to enjoy with my family and appreciate the time away to re-balance. For me the only way to enjoy it was to stay in touch with work. I just know that shutting it off completely and not knowing what to anticipate when I got back to work would have caused me more stress. Instead, I checked in a few times a day. Some days I check in more and some days less. What made it different this time is that I did it when it was convenient for me (my family). That was just perfect!


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Should We Be Saying No To Pokémon Go?

The creators of Pokémon have done it again. Since being created in 1995 by Satoshi Tajiri, Pokémon has become the second-most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise in the world, behind Nintendo’s Mario franchise. The franchise began as a video game for the original Game Boy, developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo. The franchise has since expanded to trading card games, animated television shows and movies, comic books, and toys.

The newest edition to the franchise is Pokémon Go, a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game allowing players to capture, battle, and train their Pokémon, who appear on device screens as though in the real world. It makes use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices. It has quickly become one of the most used smart device apps after launching, surpassing the previous record held by Candy Crush in the United States.

So should we be saying no to downloading Pokémon Go or should we be encouraging others to download it and play? Is it a safe or dangerous game? Some of the praise Pokémon Go has been receiving includes the overall game experience (as it is a new type of gaming), the incentive to get out in the real world and, in my option, one of the most significant benefits, the potential of improving mental and physical health.


My daughter with her Pokemon.

Now some of the complaints I have heard range from small problems with technical issues that have been experienced such as constant crashes and server issues to larger and more dangerous problems such as serious incidents of accidents and public nuisance. There have been reports of people complaining about exercise-induced pain shortly after the game launched as many people went from little to no exercise to miles of walking and long periods of standing. Some of the more serious incidents that have been reported include people being hit by a vehicle or causing accidents by not paying attention. However, the biggest concern with Pokémon Go is its security issues.

The risks range from reported cases of malware and exploits to concerns about the publisher’s storage and use of players’ personal data, to reported cases of real-world bad guys using the game’s system of visible Pokémon ‘lures’ (which can draw huge crowds) as a honeypot for armed robberies. The malware issue is only a problem for people downloading the game when it has not yet been released in their country and can be easily prevented by downloading the game from reliable sources. For the other issues, there is not much you can do except for knowing the risks before agreeing to an app privacy policy. Pokémon Go is not the only app that asks for access to personal information, but it is important to know what they are asking to use it for.

For myself, I like the idea of a game that promotes users from all around the world to have fun, socialize, and get fit as they play and explore. I’d just like to see some stronger regulations and openness from developers of these apps towards privacy and security.

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Diversity and Inclusion in Security

When the Pride Parade was going on in Ontario earlier this summer, my children were listening to the radio and asked why some people were celebrating, and why others were protesting. My son’s comment was, “we live in Canada; it is our right to be whom we want to be, as good citizens”. He still seemed puzzled; even after I explained the challenges faced by minority groups, and the inequalities that we unfortunately still have in our society. In his young mind, he could not believe that this happens right here in Toronto, in a country he believed was without prejudice. The only way I could help him understand was to relate this situation to bullying, and how people must come together to shift the power that creates opportunities for bullying and inequity.sdf

This conversation caused me to reflect on inequalities around me, and my role in speaking up for diversity and inclusiveness. I have been in the security industry since 2002, where some elements of diversity are so advanced compared to many other industries. However, women in the security industry continue to be underrepresented. Statistics show that women just don’t apply for security positions.

The good news is that our customers are asking the right questions. I have had many requests for proposals that have asked for responses to diversity, female ownership, and disability and Aboriginal involvement. Unfortunately, it is not enough. I am reminded of that as I look around after 14 years in the industry, and see that women are still vastly underrepresented in this industry.

Although there is no easy answer, we now have the momentum of the voices around us, and the inspiration from events like the Pride Parade. I am committed to doing my part to keep this subject on the table, and to support diversity in our industry.

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