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Blog 07.11.18

Personal Security

Vigilance has been Belgravia-based for over seven years and has seen first-hand the changes and challenges the local area has undergone. While Belgravia and its neighbouring areas are well-heeled they are also diverse. Yet outward signs of affluence are easily spotted at Belgravia’s substantial homes, on its streets, or in its local shops and restaurants. Many residents also work or live abroad, meaning property can be unattended for some time; relatively unremarkable facts of life for many Belgravians but facts not overlooked by the area’s many annual visitors and certainly not any opportunist criminals operating locally. Metropolitan Police crime statistics show that offences in Westminster have risen by 7% from last year, leaving some residents feeling less secure in their community.

“People are buying houses as investments or as properties that are occupied only at certain times of the year and left vacant much of the time, resulting in crime.” – Ed Mills, COO

This month we spoke to Amanda Bond Elliott, a Belgravia resident and the chair of the Belgrave Square Garden Events Committee. We met to discuss her perceptions of changes in the area, and its changing security needs. As a longstanding local resident Amanda has experienced the changing Belgravia demographics while also procuring security services both privately, and for events like the exclusive Belgrave Square Garden party; a social highlight for locals. As the local industry approved ‘ACS’ security supplier, Vigilance has worked alongside Amanda and its landlord the Grosvenor Estate to keep gardens and guests safe each year during a busy programme of summer events. 

“In the beginning, for our first garden party I didn’t allow for security, considering that the fenced garden squares were naturally secure environments for a private party. However, during that first event we unfortunately had opportunistic people jumping the fence and making a nuisance for the organisers.We realised that we needed a discreet security partner to help ensure that our guests could safely enjoy our events.” Amanda told us. The event infrastructure involved is expensive, which means security is not only needed during the party, but also for some days before and after to keep the equipment safe. As events get bigger, the demand for security increases. For Vigilance it’s a paramount concern to ensure that everyone can enjoy themselves whilst having the reassurance they are safe and controls are in place. 

“As the police, within the public sector have a limited budget, this then informs and impacts the resulting private security work which Vigilance carries out.” – Ian Lyons, Commercial Director

Budgetary constraints on the emergency services have inevitably had an effect on the policing and allocation of resources in local areas. Belgravia is not exempt, with Westminster Borough itself experiencing an 8% rise in recorded crime in the year to August 2018 and registering the highest total rates of crime of all London Boroughs. In the previous two years the Metropolitan Police Crime Data Dashboard shows that theft and handling of stolen goods is 2.5 times more likely to occur in Belgravia that any other criminal activity. While the Belgravia Ward is working hard to buck the trend, the local police station will close and its staff relocate to Charing Cross once its refurbishment completes in 2020. Perhaps as a response to these developments, some streets and squares in and around Belgravia have seen businesses or residents exploring the benefits of hiring their own private security companies to patrol and deter petty crime. By adopting this measure residents may feel reassured as the Office for National Statistics has recorded that robbery offences are up 22% in the year to July 2018. 

While private security firms collaborating with police to reduce crime may be generally a positive development, it is of course not universally welcomed. It’s a less democratic situation than policing in the past, while some residents or areas may not want, or be unable to afford private security. Establishing a private security regime in residential neighbourhoods bears certain challenges as a result. However, where there is a need and a collective will to address specific blights, such as shoplifting or mugging, security patrols can mitigate the threat of criminal activity. 

“I think having a visual security presence acts as an excellent deterrent, seeing SIA licensed officers patrolling or people posted on the street who look like police.” – Amanda Bond Elliott

Our own Chief Operation Officer, Ed Mills suggests the following measures to ensure you stay safe on the streets. 

  • Beware of wearing headphones, they reduce awareness of your surroundings. 
  • When exiting an underground station, don’t immediately retrieve your phone. 
  • When walking on the pavement, always face oncoming traffic, as it is far more difficult for thieves on two wheels to ride up behind you and snatch your property. 
  • In bars and restaurants make sure you keep your property out of sight. 

Vigilance provides several different security services, which can help secure residential or business properties. These services fall into one or more of three categories; Preventative, Detective and Corrective. For Vigilance to work out which services can provide a secure property or area, we will carry out and supply a personalised risk analysis prior to taking on any assignment. To hear more about how Vigilance can help with your security requirements and to receive an individual assessment, call us now on 0203 416 5340.

We wish to thank Amanda Bond Elliot for sharing her insights with us. 

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