Paul Davis On Crime & Security
The public and media uproar over the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) invasive security procedures at the airports has cooled a bit, but the issue of pat-downs and full-body scans offer an illustration of the need to balance privacy and security, as well as balancing security with customer convenience.
"We welcome feedback and comments on the screening procedures from the traveling public, and we will work to make them as minimally invasive as possible while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve," said TSA administrator John Pistole on November 21st. "We are constantly evaluating and adapting our security measures, and as we have said from the beginning, we are seeking to strike the right balance between privacy and security.
Pistole further stated that their nation-wide security programs go through a continual process of refinement and adjustment and best practices are applied. Feedback from the traveling public is also taken into account, Pistole assures us.
He also notes that TSA views security as an evolving program that is adapted as conditions warrant. Pistole added that TSA greatly appreciated the cooperation and understanding of the American people.
"We cannot forget that less than one year ago a suicide bomber with explosives in his underwear tried to bring down a plane over Detroit," Pistole said. "The terrorists allegedly behind the thwarted cargo attempt last month are out there bragging about how they will strike again."
The scanners offer TSA screeners a vivid image of a traveler under his or her clothes, which can reveal plastics and powders that might be explosives.
"We all wish we lived in a world where security procedures at airports weren't necessary but that just isn't the case."
According to a USA Today/Gallup poll, most air travelers approve of TSA's use of body scanners at the airports, even if the machines compromise privacy.
Eighty-eight percent of those who responded stated that they approve of scanners and 67% stated they are comfortable being examined by one. Eighty-four percent felt the scanners help prevent terrorists from carrying explosives onboard aircraft...
Travelers can opt to be "patted down" by a TSA screener rather than submit to a scanner. Twenty-two percent of those polled stated they prefer a pat-down to a scan.
The balancing of security with convenience extends beyond the airport. I have a friend who works in a medical office and she told me that the office has been victimized several times by patients or thieves pretending to be patients.
The thieves have stolen a variety of items from the office, including a laptop computer. A bold thief swiped the laptop from the receptionist's counter and he ran out the door with the laptop under his arm.
These crimes were and are preventable, as the medical office has a fairly good security system. The office has an access control system which allows patients to be "buzzed in" and a request-to-exit device that allows patients to be "buzzed out" by the receptionist behind the counter.
The access control device would have prevented non-customers from coming into the office and the request-to-exit device would have prevented the thief from running out of the office with the laptop or other valuables – had the system been activated!
The thefts occurred, I was told, because the patients, many of whom are elderly, complained bitterly about being buzzed in and out. Reacting to the complaints about their inconvenience, the access control system was deactivated.
The solution, it seems to me, is that signs should be hung on the door and in the office that explain that the access control system is activated for the patients security and safety.
The office manager should field the patient's complaints. The office manager should explain that thieves not only steal the office's property, they also rob patients.
Thieves can slip their hands into handbags and pockets, lifting credit cards, cash, cell phones and other valuables. A thief can also turn violent if confronted.
An access control system can prevent these crimes.
I recall when I received similar complaints after I coordinated the installation of post-9/11 enhanced security procedures and equipment at a Defense Department command in Philadelphia.
As the command's administrative officer, I heard the complaints, concerns and issues of our military and civilian employees. While many of the concerns were legitimate, a good number of the complaints came from our notorious cranks.
These cranks would also be the first to complain had we not installed security measures and a security breach occurred. You can't please a crank.
It falls to the small business owner to balance the need for security with customer convenience. As the TSA administrator can tell you, it is not always an easy task.