How safe is your office?

A young engineer is alone in her corporate office completing a project on a Sunday evening. A predator sees an opportunity to make advances, but the episode ends in a tragedy — A perspective by Cdr Sandeep Kumar — Earlier posted on LinkedIn in Feb 2017

#officesecurity #preventcrime

On 29 Jan 2017, Rasila Raju OP, a 25 year old engineer was strangulated to death in her Infosys office at Pune. Two months ago, another girl was stabbed to death on a Pune street while returning from work. Similar incidents of violence and crime have now become common news. Each new incident sends investigators hunting for clues by devouring CCTV footage, conducting interviews and gathering material evidence. All in the hope of tracing back the sequence of events. Ironically, there is a considerably high price we pay in terms of lost lives and enduring the trauma of crime in fear, than we invest on efforts to prevent it. So very often the tell-tale signs of brewing trouble are overlooked to the perils of returning to erode peace. ‘If we ignore vitals for too long, we are sure to land up in critical care’.

‘Zero tolerance’ towards work place violence is not the same as zero incidents’

Infosys, the tech giant by no means compromises on providing the best to its employees. Similarly most corporates commit to ensure huge investments for enhancing security, comfort, vibrancy and ergonomics at the work place. The aim — to provide a congenial and productive environment, with increased sense of security and workplace safety. This very assurance was however shattered with the murder of a young girl in the ‘safe’ confines of her office. That it was a Sunday, and she was alone at office does not in any way undermine the efficacy of the security arrangements for her protection. In fact, it is precisely because of stringent security, she would have felt confident going to office in the first place.

‘A pre-planned murder or an incident in a fit of rage?’

Rasila Raju (the victim) was apparently alone in a secure office with privileged access. It is early to conclusively derive the exact sequence of events leading to the dastardly act. It is believed that Bhaben Saikia (the guard on duty) had asked the young girl to leave her office door open on the pretext of noting serial numbers of all computers. And as anyone else would, she acceded to the request of the guard. It is believed that the guard was spurned by Rasila for staring at her. Because of this, an altercation ensued, during which Bhaben felt threatened of losing his job if his misbehaviour was reported. He took the extreme step and strangled Rasila to death using a computer cable. Rasila had earlier complained about the misconduct of the same guard to the management. Apparently not enough action was taken which could prevent this tragedy.

‘A sequence of unfortunate circumstances, leads to a tragedy’

Rasila is alone in her office, the predator sees an opportunity to make advances and coerces her to leave the door open. A simple compliance to access control could have prevented or delayed the guard from getting in close proximity.

‘Technology alone will not be able to resolve human behaviour issues’

Surveillance cameras, alarms and high tech systems not only help record and audit, but also act as deterrents to prevent incidents. But, unless the security design is skilfully amalgamated to provide a fit for purpose solution, there will be workarounds to defeat the very purpose of the control. Every new equipment adds a sense of relief, but will be effective only if it is exploited as per deployed design. The seamless convergence of processes and technology must cater to the outlier human behaviour and expectations. Compliance and monitoring of the entire system and process chain is even more critical to ensure efficacy of implemented solutions. Any one piece being ignored, is a potential invitation for an incident. CCTV recordings are very useful for post incident investigation but unfortunately are not good enough to prevent the crime.

A few actions can go a long way to enhance safety and security at any place:

· Undertake background checks with diligence

· Encourage employee engagement and positive behaviour

· Encourage team based functioning

· Educate employees and spread awareness

· Implement access control and enforce discipline for compliance to processes

· Implement safe procedures and enhance overt surveillance

· Use techniques like SIRA (Suspicion Indicators Recognition & Assessment) to identify & recognize abnormal behaviour

· Institute exemplary punitive action for deterrence

The National Crime Records Bureau report*, 2015 shows an increase of IPC (Indian Penal Code) crime rate by 41.7%, in the decade from 2005–2010. In the same period, the number of cases registered rose by 61.8%. Crime is showing no signs of reducing and these figures do not even take into account the numerous cases which go unreported. Unless each of us in the community contribute to curb this menace, heinous crimes will continue to increase. Each incident will be unique with new lessons to be learned. But have we learnt the previous lessons? Are we doing enough? Despite the stated objectives and mission statements articulating ‘People safety and security as top most priority’, crime incidents continue unabated. We must endeavour to establish mechanisms for predicting potential incidents. This can start by making incident reporting simple and convenient. The smallest abnormal indication should be ‘nipped in the bud’. There is a fine line between the ills of excessive reporting, to the dangerous consequences of non-reporting. That line, is a judgement call of every individual and organization.

If prevention is better than cure — whom would you rather prefer — A physician or an undertaker?

* Crime in India 2015 Compendium — National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs

Epilogue

The Crime Triad

Desire, ability and opportunity form the three sides of a triangle which need to converge for crime to take place. These three aspects however need to be extended to include two more, the ‘Threat Actor’ (potential convict) and the ‘Target’ (potential victim) to form a ‘crime chain’. Much of the preventive mechanisms are focussed on reducing the ‘opportunity’. However, each of these five elements in the crime chain must be successfully tackled to diminish occurrence of crime. All five aspects can be strengthened individually and collectively to reduce crime and obviate serious incidents.

Each of these 5 elements presents an opportunity to strengthen the weak links to prevent crime

Each of these 5 elements presents an opportunity to strengthen the weak links to prevent crime

Caught Off-guard. In the Infosys Pune murder case, the lone ‘victim’, on a Sunday evening, was seen as an ‘opportunity’ by the ‘convict’, with ‘desire’ and ‘ability’. Neither the convict was under watch, nor was the victim aware / alert to the circumstances for a possible fall out. Simple precautions could have potentially dissuaded the convict from committing this crime. A colleague’s presence, the office room door being kept locked, even an alert to online colleagues (perhaps a video call), or a call to the security control room intimating her concerns could have prevented the tragedy.

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