Avoiding patterns


At one time or another you will no doubt have been told that in order to disrupt surveillance and help prevent attack on your principal you should avoid setting patterns and change your routines, timings, routes etc.

On the face of it this is sound advice, many victims of kidnapping were selected because they set patterns which were picked up on by their attackers. From amateur attacks like the kidnapping of Exxon executive Sidney Reso in 1992, who was chosen as a victim by husband and wife team Arthur and Irene Seale becaue he stopped at his mailbox every morning on his way to work. To the professional and highly orchestrated attacks carried out by the Red Army Faction against high profile figures such as Aldo Moro and Hans Martin Schleyer in the 70’s and 80’s.

Unfortunately most people have places they need to be at particular times and just how easy or realistic is it to change your principal’s routines in a meaningful way? If your boss likes to get the office at 10am every morning can we get him there at 12? Would it really be feasible to drop the principal’s child off at school at 7am when school starts at 9?

Slipping timings by anything less than an hour or two is fairly pointless as an attack team are likely to have a window of opportunity in their plan which would allow them to remain in place and await your arrival. Changing your departure times by 15-20mins may make you feel like you are doing your bit for anti-surveillance, but in reality this may have very little effect.

So we can see that changing timings by an effective margin isn’t always realistic, how about the other old pearl of wisdom that is trotted out on CP courses; varying your routes.

Again this seems like a good option, plan a primary, secondary and tertiary route to your destination and then use a different one every day on a random basis. So far so good. Unfortunatley all routes have to start and end somewhere, and as you get closer to those locations, options tend to reduce until eventually you are left with one.

For example you may have multiple routes available to take your principal to his place of work, however all will begin at the main gate of the residence and probably be limited to one way out of the road he lives on, especillay if he lives in a rural location. This is duplicated at the other end as routes once again merge as you approach the final destination.

So what does this mean to us? If we are protecting a principal who has somewhere they need to be on a regular basis, be that school or work, then it is unlikely that you will be able to avoid setting a routine and appearing on the same stretch of road at the same time on a regular basis, making it an obvious location/time for hostile action to take place.

Therefore it is vital that we put ourselves in the attacker’s shoes, identify these locations and put measures in place to mitigate the threat. The obvious (depending on the principal and identified threat level) being the use of an advance team to clear the route and a counter surveillance team to sit on these locations.

It is also imperative that the CPO or protection team’s level of awareness and observation is at its highest when leaving or arriving at a destination. There can be a tendency to relax or switch off somewhat as you approach a residence and find yourself on familiar territory, especially after a long tiring day on the ground, however this can also be one of the most dangerous parts of the journey as route options narrow.

Playing lip service to changing your routes and timings won’t stop an attack…but a good understanding of the hostile planning cycle, surveillance techniques and contingency planning will certainly reduce the risk.

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