Taking a Proactive Approach to Park Security

The following article on park security was written by Johnathan Tal and published online here

For those that may not know, Victoria Park is a historic, 18-acre park located in downtown London, Ontario, Canada. It dates to the 1800s when it was the site of the British garrison. When the British withdrew, the barracks they built to house the troops were used to accommodate enslaved people escaping from the United States.

Today, the park is used throughout the year as an entertainment center and for various festivities. It is also known as a clean, comfortable, and safe place to “just hang out.”

However, it was certainly not a safe place to hang out around 6 p.m. on August 26, 2022. That evening, a 33-year-old man was in the park when at least two others assaulted him. The victim was sent to a local hospital suffering what were reported to be serious injuries.

Park Security and the Reactive Approach

Unfortunately, incidents like this happen frequently in parks all over Canada and North America. What happens next also happens frequently. If injured, the victim is taken to a hospital, a report is made, and an investigation begins, with very few leads to follow.

When it comes to park security and crime in parks, we must realize that we can’t expect police to be everywhere. As a result, police and administrators are put into a reactive position when it comes to park security. All they can do is react to the incident, try to uncover clues, talk to bystanders if there are any, and in the process, hopefully, find the culprit.

What would be more effective is for park administrators to be more proactive. While a proactive approach to park security will not deter all crimes and unfortunate incidents from occurring in a city park, it should be able to reduce the number of crimes.

A proactive approach begins with a “risk assessment.” Then, with the risk assessment completed, implementing “risk mitigation” procedures can be implemented.

Park Security and Risk Assessments

A risk assessment is designed to identify potential hazards, threats, and weak points in a park — or a facility — that might open the door to an assault, theft, or similar crime. However, the assessment does not begin at the park’s door. Instead, it starts by looking at the bigger picture.

For instance, according to Areavives, a website that analyzes cities as to livability, schools, demographics, and crime, the Victoria Park area gets “A” and “A+” rankings in most categories, But when it comes to crime, it drops down to “C+.” Total crime here is 11 percent higher than the Canadian national average.

Knowing that this area has a higher crime rate when conducting the risk assessment will encourage security professionals to be even more watchful when looking for ways to make the park safer.

Among the other items they will investigate are the following:

Examine Park lighting. Was the lighting adequate where our 33-year-old man was attacked? Was the lighting dim? No lighting? A dim or dark park space, especially in a high crime area, opens the door to criminal incidents.

Look for Confusing Layouts. It should be easy for park users to get out of the park, find parking lots, or get to the street, especially if they need to exit quickly.

Hidden Areas. Isolated or remote locations in a park often become magnets for illicit activities and places for criminals to find potential victims. Because park users are often involved in recreational activities, they may be less vigilant about protecting their belongings and personal safety, once again opening the door to an unfortunate incident.

Evolving Loitering Areas. Loitering areas are often found in hidden or improperly lit areas. All-too-often they turn into gathering spots for those looking to commit crime.

Staff Training. No risk assessment would be complete without analyzing whether park staff have been trained in park security. Their job in park safety is to become aware of potential risks in the park and help prevent them.

Risk Mitigation

We defined a risk assessment as a process that looks for potential hazards in a park that could provide openings for crimes to occur. Risk mitigation is accomplished by decreasing the threat level. Addressing the items, we just discussed might include:

  • Installing more and brighter lighting.
  • Ensuring that exits are clearly marked for park users.
  • Eliminating hidden and loitering locations.
  • Educating staff on risk awareness and prevention procedures.

However, if the park is suffering from high crime incidents, additional steps may be necessary to enhance park security. Some that should be considered include the following:

  • Installation of high-definition cameras, which are also “zero light” systems. These cameras are triggered by movement, and zero-light cameras can provide clear video footage of the park, day or night.
  • Installing geo-fencing around open or less secure areas of the park. Geo-fences are virtual fences and imaginary boundaries. They notify park administrators if, for instance, someone enters the park after it is closed or approaches areas off-limit to park users.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, allow park administrators to see aerial photos of their park quickly and discreetly. They can help ensure public safety, look for “lost” children, monitor animal life in the park, and detect potential threats to the park and those using it.

Canada is in a very enviable position. Compared to most other countries, crime, in general, has been going down. According to Statista, which tracks statistics like this, Canada’s crime rate has steadily decreased since 2003. However, that does not mean it does not happen. Just ask our 33-year-old victim discussed earlier. As we already mentioned, park administrators must proactively approach park safety. Taking steps now to ensure park safety can pay dividends in the future, should Canada experience a reversal of fortune.

Johnathan Tal is CEO of TAL Global. Based in Silicon Valley, TAL Global is a leading risk management, security consulting, and investigative agency serving clients worldwide. The company has a large client base, focusing on the High-Tech, Hospitality, Manufacturing, and Financial industries. Tal can be reached through his company website at www.talglobal.com.

© TAL Global, 2019