Physical security: Think global, act local

Stuart Bostock’s Security Centre Ltd. has protected a dozen high-profile personalities, and continues to prosper in the face of global threats – bombings, personal attacks and multiple casualties.

In fact, those threats appear to be accelerating. The news is full of Istanbul, Orlando, San Bernardino, Paris and Brussels. The airwaves hum with warnings about holiday weekends and travel; politicians rant about immigration and porous borders; newscasters pontificate on “lone wolves” and unpredictability.

Stuart Bostock
Stuart Bostock

Bostock, president and CEO, is reluctant to list specific local security threats, calling it a daunting task in a market as diverse as Cayman. However, his company brochure names “natural disasters, accidents, terrorism, fraud and theft,” a broad menu that applies internationally as well as locally, noting that “our personal property and loved ones are always at risk to intruders and safety hazards in the home.”

“The world has experienced an increased demand for personal, corporate and national security,” Bostock says, adding it would be naive to suggest “the Cayman Islands … is immune to that.”

Jay Leno, Jamie Lee Curtis, Terrence Howard, Al Pacino and Tom Cruise are among celebrities who have been under his company’s protection on island at one time or another, although an observer might never see the rings of security, or notice the “onion layer approach,” as Bostock describes it, surrounding each individual.

“Security and protection is about building up layers and making the end target as difficult or complex as possible to reach, [and that] hopefully results in a failed attempt or a complete abandonment of the attempt altogether.

“By creating layers, we hope to prevent the incident in the first place. If we don’t, then we hope the layers will slow progress, and the more layers that are used, the more likely detection will occur,” he says.

He is reluctant to provide too much detail, of course, preferring broader generalities, but the CEO says the company is the “largest, most-diverse and only fully integrated physical and electronic security and life-safety company on the island.”

In its initial form, the company has operated since 1995, but Bostock says, “as a result of a merger of interests between existing local security companies, Five Star Security and Security Countermeasures International,” The Security Centre was formed in 2000.

“I joined the company as operations manager during its creation,” he says. He became CEO in 2002. Three years later, the firm launched Security Centres International Ltd., providing products and serviced in Bermuda, the Bahamas, Antigua, BVI and Jamaica.

His more-than 250 Cayman staff – and almost 1,000 across the Caribbean – do not just cluster around high-profile individuals, patrol fences and install burglar alarms, however. The range of protections offered includes “location-based (global positioning systems) asset-tracking systems, home automation, impact and perimeter protection, secure storage and aerial video surveillance,” the latter of which means drones.

His eight canine teams complete the company’s “tool kit” of protection.

The teams are posted to specific clients to patrol properties, primarily at night,” Bostock says, “but we do not just provide dogs for fence areas. Our dogs are assigned to specific handlers,” and are trained and regularly assessed.

They are specific to clients, tailored to particular needs at particular properties “to ensure a professional appearance and handling.”

The uniforms officers wear are not what an observer might imagine. They are without breastplates and names, feature no sharply creased trousers or smart, peaked caps.

“When conceived and introduced in Cayman, our uniforms (black slacks, white business shirt and black tie) were original, designed to look like business attire and not uniformed services,” Bostock says. “We are the island’s largest service provider with [more than] 200 full-time security officers and a total head count of [more than] 250.” The force aspires to remain discreet, providing an “understated presence.”

The Security Centre “has done nothing that any other security company on island could [not] have done. We just did it our way and responded to market demand by providing some level of reassurance and peace of mind, focusing on our reputation, not our competition,” he says.

The website even suggests awareness of cybersecurity, warning that “more stringent government regulations are increasing the need for greater compliance among corporations, forcing them to reassess security policies and procedures.” Developing technology is important to “make the workplace safer.”

Technology, Bostock says, has been the spur to recent growth. In August last year, the firm moved into its own headquarters adjacent to the Cayman Technology Centre, a collection of four two-story buildings at the Cayman National roundabout offering 33,000 square feet of commercial space.

“The new facility was needed to support our image in the modern technology market, critical to accommodate our existing resources, improve on efficiencies and position the company for rapid local and regional growth,” he says.

A small chart lists a 15-point range of services, including closed-circuit television, private investigations, uniformed officers and corporate and event security.

“Our goal is to provide a level of service that we would expect as a client. We may not always get it right, but when we don’t, the entire team takes it personally and wants to fix it,” he says.

“Proper security and protection is about being as discreet as possible under the circumstances, but effective as necessary when the situation changes,” he adds.

Locally, the company works with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service when possible and necessary, Bostock says, drawing careful distinctions between the roles of security teams and police patrols.

“Local legislation and culture dictates how we respond to incidents and to what level,” he says. His company is “not meant to be – nor are we trying to be – an alternative private police force or, like in some countries, dispatched to do the dirty work that government employees can’t.”

As such, integration of security personnel and police is infrequent, he says, as each pursue largely separate segments.

The 2007 Private Security Services Law might have better integrated the two, he says, but “that has not been the case.

“Our presence in retail operations results in the regular detention of shoplifters, and as ‘expert witnesses,’ security officers should be able to provide respected accounts of incidents which further ensures prosecution in court.”

However, Bostock says, “It cannot be ignored that at any given time there are more security personnel on duty than law-enforcement officers.

“This must naturally means that the opportunity to commit crime is reduced as the likelihood of detection or apprehension is increased,” while “intruder alarms and CCTV systems not only act as a deterrent, but provide immediate response and critical evidence.”

Still, police statistics indicate that “volume crime” and “crimes of opportunity,” such as burglary, remain at persistent levels.

Bostock emphasizes that The Security Centre is not a police force, its personnel are not walking beats nor driving their 30 vehicles on patrol. In short, the company is not in the business of reducing crime.

“That is probably a question for our education and social-systems leaders,” he says, acknowledging that private security companies will neither eliminate nor reduce crime. “We will only build layers and make our clients a harder target, meaning the committed criminal will just move ‘next door’ to the weaker target.

“We do our best to protect the interests of our clients, and if that means moving the problem down the road, literally, not figuratively, then our goal was a success.”

The company’s staff are neither armed nor have powers of arrest, although the 2007 law allowed security officers to carry firearms, he says. “But to date, there is no desire to do so.”

He says the lack of firearms has never compromised security operations, and the ability to arrest lawbreakers is the same as any citizen’s right.

“Security personnel have no special powers of arrest outside of what is commonly known as ‘citizen’s arrest,’” he says. “This means that persons committing offenses of damage, assault and theft against property or persons – and when committed [with]in an officer’s view – can be detained and handed over to law-enforcement personnel for prosecution.”

Almost all Security Centre officers are drawn from a background in military, law enforcement, corrections or personal or corporate security.

“In addition to our traditional uniformed security services who are deployed in office buildings, financial institutions, hotels, condominium complexes and residential communities, we also provide close and personal protection details for VIPs.

“We employ professionals from [more than] 20 countries, which means we have access to knowledge and experience of products and services not only from the Cayman Islands, but also countries such as Jamaica, Cuba, Guyana, Columbia, Honduras, England, Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Canada, India, Nepal and the Philippines.”

As threats – and perceived threats – escalate, The Security Centre also seems set to grow.

While reluctant to number clients, both long- and short-term, Bostock says “90 percent of our business is contracted, long-term customers, and our client-retention rate is very high, which we are quite proud of.

“We measure our growth in terms of customer retention and award, new products lines and services, staff numbers, new ventures which support our core offering of security and life safety and by expanding our multi-jurisdictional presence across the Caribbean.

The company “offers a multifaceted approach to protecting people, property and profits,” he says. “What separates us from other industry players is our ability to consult on and provide several different options for our clients to consider. Electronic systems support traditional manned solutions. Advancing technology makes security systems more accessible to the everyday consumer.

“[Our] reputation for delivering projects on time and on budget is critical in such a small jurisdiction, and when we over-commit and under-deliver, as make sure we try our best to fix the issues or compensate our clients.”