A Matter of Security
Security actually do not have any legal or statutory powers for searching a person unless you get a customer’s consent. Under no circumstances can they forcibly search anyone. We do this by making searches a ‘condition of entry’ This is how we conduct searches.
What is A Condition Of Entry?
So what’s a condition of entry? Simply, it means that a customer may enter premises on the condition that they consent to a security staff search. If they refuse to the search, they be refused entry.
If you refer to the image above, you can that the conditions of entry will include items that are not allowed onto the premises to protect the venue, its staff and of course your patrons and customer’s.
These items include but not limited to.
- Illegal drugs
- Offensive weapons
- Spray paint and markers
- Gang insignia
The less any of these items make it into the premises, the less chance of them becoming a problem in the venue or causing damage to assets and property or harm to customer’s and staff. This way you’re being proactive as opposed to being reactive. They say “prevention is better than cure”.
Clearly display the conditions of entry outside the premises. Definitely at the entrance where you’re check points will be and maybe signage along the path leading to the entrance and venue car parks.
This ensures customer’s in no uncertain terms understand what is expected of them. It also shows that the search policy is not only enforced by security but also a management decision.
How thorough a customer is searched is at the discretion of management and ultimately the security guard at the time.
Some security crews have a policy where every single customer is searched. Others will search customer’s at random, or every 10th customer.
Here are some factors that will determine the level of search you are conducting and what you will have to consider.
- There could be potential health and safety issues. e.g. Ques blocking walkways and heavy foot traffic around you’re own entrance and other shop frontages, forcing public onto the road.
- If a club or area has a particular problem with drugs more than others. Look I think it would be unrealistic for a security team to find drugs on every single customer waiting to get into the premises. If I’m working a rave I know finding drugs on someone is a given, knowing what to look for and understanding drug induced behavior will determine how thoroughly you will conduct your search.
- If an event following or club has a reputation for fighting and violent disorder. For example, you’re more likely to find weapons at a gangster rappers concert than you would at a dance party.
- The Police have asserted and advised a particular focus on specific searches. Sometimes we have Police on site who might advise to check a person fitting a certain description who is a known dealer or criminal.
I had my guys provide security at a three-day NYE event. It was on farmland over a few acres. I’ve run the team at front of house and seen some methods used to smuggle in contraband. Some were genius. They never ceased to amaze me.
Of course there were the usual ways drugs were sneaked in and then there was next level smuggling.
- Pure vodka disguised as water and ice at the bottom of a chilly bin
- Fizzy drinks refilled with alcohol mix or water bottles switched with vodka that looked like they were unopened
- A packet of crisps obviously resealed with drugs
- A stick of lip balm turned into a dispenser for pills
- Tampons resealed with drugs inside
- Large sunscreen tubes used like a flask filled with alcohol
These are just some many ways patrons are coming up with, I’ve even heard of oranges filled with alcohol via a syringe. I mean who actually come up with these things.
What happens to confiscated contraband?
You’ll probably see big plastic bins outside at the entrances where all alcohol is thrown into. What happens to all that alcohol? Its destroyed. Although there have been rumors some organizers restock their own bars and sell them back to the customer’s. Rude right?
Drugs are a different beast. There are usually “drug boxes” under lock and key. All confiscated drugs and paraphernalia is documented and one designated person makes trips to where ever the drug box is located and put in there for Police to uplift at the end of the event. I’d make sure there is a paper trail to cover your ass too. Whoever picks up the contraband should be checking the items and signing for them. Including the Police.
You’ve got to get the search process right
Remember its important to get the customer’s permission prior to searching. Otherwise, it is an illegal search. Failure to do so can result in:
- criminal proceedings for assault or breach of human rights being taken against you
- civil action ( for compensation ) being taken out against your security company and the venue
- any charges laid against person in possession of drugs or weapons could be acquitted because the search itself is found to be illegal
Police are the only people who can exercise their own powers of search in the street to find out whether they are in possession of illegal and dangerous items.
Most customer’s will happily give their consent to be searched. You might find. You have to explain the reasons for the search to them again. Clearly and concisely.
If they indicate they don’t want to be searched explicitly explain the conditions of entry, and inform them refusing consent to be searched means no admission into the premises.
It is most important that security actually obtain permission from the person they wish to search beforehand. Searching someone without the necessary consent could result in :-
Searches inside the premises
Some premises/managers/companies allow or even ask their door supervisors to search customer’s once they are inside the premises, normally if they suspect that they have either drugs or weapons in their possession.
However, security have no power to search a person in the first place. So any items found during an illegal search cannot be used as evidence, if they’ve been obtained legally.
It is recommended, therefore, that security should observe the customer then call police to attend and decide to exercise their own statutory powers of search on the customer.
Alternatively, you could just eject them from the premises.
Its important then that searches be thoroughly conduced at the point of entry. Find guidance in you policies and procedures, which should have been devised in consultation with the local police.
The “Pat Down”
Searches have to be conducted in a friendly manner since body searches can be intrusive and daunting for some, On most security details we provide equal numbers of female and male guards so that there are same sex searches. Some people will try to find anything to complain about. There are a lot of vindictive people out there.
So you want to protect staff from any malicious allegations of being indecently assaulted during a body search. There is nothing wrong with a male security can asking a female customer to empty the contents of her handbag and pockets onto a table, but should never touch or ‘pat her down’.
Always be polite and always be courteous. Keep talking to customer’s while you’re searching them. It helps make them feel at ease, and it will give you the opportunity to assess their general attitude and demeanor.
Special care should also be taken when searching customer’s for drugs. The possibility of infection from dirty needles is obvious. You can now buy needle-resistant gloves for searching purposes, which are ideal for these situations.
At the bag check and search station
Where possible, I do all my front of house briefing at the actual front of house location. This way your peple can see the environment they will be working in and have a point of reference as you’re going through procedures and instructions.
In most cases and where possible have an empty table in the search area so that you can ask customer’s to put the contents of their pockets and bags on it for inspection prior to the outer clothing being searched.
What I’ve found when we’ve discovered a new method of smuggling it will be a trend and so it can slow the process down having to be more vigilant with checking for this particular trend. Depending on how busy it gets and manpower out there you may have to consider getting another lane and table to manage crowd flow.
Before you touch another person you should be asking them these questions;
- if they have anything on them that they shouldn’t have
- if they have anything on them that might hurt you or them and anyone else for that matter
Make sure there is another guard around you to act as a witness while you’re searching too. Its not recommended that a customer goes into their own pockets to grab something if you’ve spotted something. You need to do this cautiously.
When you’ve got the item safely, secure it away from them by either passing it to another guard who will itemize it and then put into bin or drug box.
For body searches you’ve got to be thorough and methodical. Devise you own method of searching, but use the same method each time. A good way to search is to start is at the front at the from top to bottom, then repeat the search from behind.
Look, searches can be just as confronting and daunting for Security staff. It doesn’t have to be. The more relaxed and personable you can be the easier it is to extract information from punters without them knowing and the easier it is to deal with them. Enjoy the process and interaction with your customer’s. Just don’t lose sight of what you’re there for.
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