Security isn't something we tend to think about in hospitality - especially if you're not in management, or work in a smaller venue. But just like first aid, security awareness is one of those skills everyone should have.
Here, Typsy chats with Anthony McGinty, a former US Marine who now provides specialized security and intelligence consultant services to venues across the United States, including LAX airport.
So read on to learn about how you can get started in the basics of security, intelligence, and risk assessment, no matter your role.
"Hospitality staff are experts in their slice of the workplace, so they’re better placed than anyone else to be able to tell if something unusual is happening."
Let's start off talking about how you got your start in the industry - what drew you to intelligence and security?
Well, after I graduated from college I spent some time in the Marine Corps, and then I went into law enforcement. I started out as an officer, and then progressed to detective.
I had assignments in homicide and internal affairs. After that, I spent eight years in the intelligence division of the Washington DC police where I was detailed to the FBI, and that led to five years with the National Counterterrorism Center [NCTC].
In that role, I identified and monitored threats that could impact Washington DC, and then developed tactical response strategies for the DC police. So I was kind of a liaison officer between counter terrorism intelligence and the police force – it was a unique role.
And most recently I’ve been working at LAX [airport] as an intelligence advisor and a security consultant.
So how did you become involved with hospitality security issues?
Well, when I was with the FBI and NCTC, I did also liaise directly with hotels, speaking to managers and even the corporate level about terrorism and threats – ways for hospitality venues to identify suspicious activity and what they can do about it.
Also, Washington DC has a lot of demonstrations – people come to the nation’s capital for all kinds of causes, [so] I’d work to identify any opportunists or extremist groups who might exploit an event. And I’d respond to hotels [which] sometimes sustained damage from those demonstrations.
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What a fascinating career path! It seems like your military experience has really influenced your career.
It did influence me a lot, and security kind of came afterwards. [When] I was on active duty, my missions often involved protection – safeguarding at-risk groups, infrastructure, cultural sites, and even sensitive equipment.
So I was working with a lot of intelligence issues, and [I saw] this intersection between intelligence and security.
“I wanted to use my intelligence experience to inform security operations.”
I do notice in security that often the intelligence side is neglected – but the threat should dictate what type of security design you have! So I saw a place to bring something new there – to add value.
So you’re really coming at this with a different perspective than someone who’s coming from private security! How does your approach differ?
Well, there’s two sides. In private security, you tend to focus on manpower and security systems and operations – and obviously that has a place. But my perspective is first focusing on the nature of the threat itself. Who are the people involved, and what are their capability, aims and intentions?
So it’s not just having a blanket five million dollar security system, but first categorizing the types of potential threats to your organization, and then determining what security measures are reasonable.
I look to inform personnel about where their focus should be, and how they can identify risk. So that’s my angle. I respect the security industry, but I also want to bring an intelligence aspect to it – informed, reasonable decision making.
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This word ‘reasonable’ is really interesting. How can ordinary hospitality workers be responsible and reasonable when it comes to threat assessment?
I’ll start by saying – don’t be afraid to speak up when you sense a security problem. Approach law enforcement and security and ask them about the issues at the venue and in the surrounding environment.
It’s very important that managers and executives reach out and learn about what’s going on in their community.
And then, take that information and [use it to] brief personnel in their company.
Do you think that’s something that’s useful for managers to do with general staff as well?
Sure, yeah. Everyone on staff should have this information available, so every person has all the information they need to make reasonable, well-informed risk assessment decisions.
Hospitality staff know their area better than anyone else – they’re an expert in their slice of the venue. So they’re better placed than anyone else to be able to tell if something unusual is happening.
For example, “This door is always locked, but today it wasn’t” - that’s something housekeeping might report, and it could be a crucial piece of information.
There’s a phrase we use that sums it up pretty well: ‘duty to warn, duty to share’.
That seems really useful and easy to remember, even for people who aren’t that familiar with security issues!
Yeah. I like to say that you’re aiming for intelligence-driven, risk-based security operations. What I mean by that is: you’re looking for anomalous behavior based on your knowledge, experience, and training.
For example: a stranger walking into a staff-only area, say behind the front desk, that’s unusual behaviour. Employees should know what to do in that event – who to notify, noting the time, and what descriptive details to include.
Then you can identify indicators of a threat before it happens, rather than just reacting to a threat. Anticipating, and taking pre-emptive action.
“But [threat indicators] have to be about behavior, not appearances. I can’t stress that enough. Innocent guests feeling harassed causes a lot more problems than it solves. That’s the bottom line.”
Accusing an innocent person of wrongdoing [is the worst thing you can do]. You defeat the whole purpose of your organization – it’s not hospitable.
And it reflects really badly on your business, especially in today’s social media environment. Places go out of business because of negative incidents like that!
It sounds like we’re basically talking about harm reduction in every way – reducing harm to guests, to staff, to the business…
Yes, exactly. Bottom line, we are here to make sure everyone’s safe and comfortable. And it’s also making sure your resources and time aren’t being wasted!
So that’s what good intelligence does. That’s why [my niche] is so important. It makes sure your focus is where it needs to be.
There’s heaps more to come from Tony! Stay tuned for part two, where Tony chats to us in more detail about reasonable security responses, how hospitality communities can work together, and exciting innovations in the security industry. Coming soon.
Tony will also be bringing his unique perspective to Typsy in his upcoming course, Threats and security awareness for front-line staff.
Want to contact Tony to find out more about security consulting services? Reach him here.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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