FRIDAY OCTOBER 08 2021

Reports of crime appeared to have been on the rise in East Africa at the height of the restrictions, including lockdowns and curfews, imposed by governments to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Private security service providers like SGA Security, which has a presence in all major towns in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, say they had to reset their response plans and deploy advanced technology to cope with the pandemic-induced challenges.

The Business Daily spoke to the securiy firm’s chief executive and chairman, Julius Delahaije, on the changing security needs in homes and businesses in East Africa. Excerpts:

HAS KENYA WITNESSED A SURGE OR A DROP IN CASES TO DO WITH INSECURITY DURING THE COVID-19 PERIOD?

  • The curfew and lockdown restrictions imposed by the government led to many organisations changing schedules to working from home, leaving offices, warehouses and business premises such as hotels, learning institutions and religious institutions unoccupied, posing a high security threat. Burglars took advantage of the quiet nights and deserted streets to break in.
  • While many people lost their jobs due to Covid-19 there was an increase in crime. Cases were reported of thieves in public service vehicles and bodabodas making away with valuable items from people. Others were targeting shops and also mugging pedestrians.
  • Most business owners sought different security solutions tailored to the nature of their premises. Our clients needed a boost of security especially to the unoccupied premises.

 

WHAT NEW SECURITY CHALLENGES ARE BEING POSED BY COVID AND HOW ARE PRIVATE SECURITY SERVICE PROVIDERS LIKE YOURSELF RESPONDING OR HELPING ORGANISATIONS TO RESPOND?

  • Alarm and fire detector systems installed in business premises are monitored from our 24-hour control room in real-time, enabling our response and monitoring team to take action in case of a break-in or a fire. This has reduced cases of burglaries.
  • Cybersecurity has also become crucial. While most teams continue working from home, an organisation may fall victim to cyber-attack threats, leaking of confidential data and theft of intellectual property that may be caused by the use of open-source WiFi. These threats may lead to revenue loss and disruption of business operations and damage its reputation.

 

IS SGA SECURITY PLANNING TO INVEST IN NEW SECURITY SOLUTIONS TO SHORE UP REVENUES THIS YEAR?

  • We have incorporated high-end software or applications, which are the frontline systems and the future as the end of Covid-19 pandemic is unpredictable.
  • The installation of automatic heat-detection thermal cameras, for instance, paired with facial-recognition software will enhance fever-screening station, replacing the hand-held thermal cameras mostly manned by security guards or front office operators.
  • The sophisticated digital surveillance ‘social distancing detectors’ have a camera software that rings a buzzer or alerts security staff when two or three people stand or sit less than six feet apart.
  • It counts the distance and the number of people in a room, detecting those not wearing a face mask. These security systems could be effective in malls, hospitals, supermarkets, airports, learning and religious institutions and workplaces.

 

TO WHAT EXTENT DID THE CLOSURE OF SCHOOLS, HOTELS, RESTAURANTS, SOME OF WHOM ARE YOUR CLIENTS IMPACT YOUR OPERATIONS LAST YEAR?

  • Tourism and hospitality industry was the most hit when Covid-19 struck due to closure of restaurants, hotels, and coffee shops and restriction of movement in and out of the country.
  • Besides guarding services, our clients in the financial institutions also closed branches to mitigate risks of Covid-19, especially in Uganda, hence less operations. There was a negative impact on our cash-in-transit escort and cash management solutions where cashless transactions were introduced.
  • But with the recovery processes, security solutions are gradually being considered as a necessity in the safety of businesses for all sectors.

 

HOW HAS THE ADOPTION OF TECHNOLOGY SUCH AS THE USE OF ACCESS CONTROLS, FINGERPRINTS AND FACE RECOGNITION HELPED SHAPE THE FACE OF SECURITY IN KENYA?

  • Most companies have shown willingness to reorganise the security from the traditional model of a watchman at the gate, by integrating advanced technology which has significantly enhanced accuracy, privacy, and detection in real-time thereby reducing operational costs and potential risks.
  • While the adoption has not been widely incorporated, there is need for firms and households to invest in available security systems for better protection.

 

WHAT MEASURES ARE YOU PUTTING IN PLACE IN YOUR POST COVID-RECOVERY PLANS?

  • At SGA Security, we have put in place business continuity and disaster recovery strategies to provide solutions tailor-made for different clients, by first understanding the kind of risks they are facing.
  • Since the outbreak of Covid- 19, the control room personnel have been working in shifts to ensure business continuity process is run smoothly, while ensuring social distancing of the team. We have a back-up software system to safeguard our solutions.

 

DO YOU THINK THAT PRIVATE SECURITY GUARDS ESPECIALLY IN KENYA SHOULD BE ARMED?

  • Personally, I have mixed feelings. The less arms the better. But at the same time we have to be realistic that when cases of crime are reported, burglars are often reported armed and unfortunately in many circumstances one cannot do much when accosted by an armed criminal.
  • As is the case in Uganda and Tanzania where guards are trained to handle firearms, it is a government’s decision to regulate the appropriate use of firearms (if approved) to prevent its misuse.