Setting the Framework for Private Security Terror Response

Perry Novotny*



Many countries are currently experiencing a security challenge on a scale never before experienced. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as ‘Lone Wolf’ attacks and it is challenging security forces and governments on a wide scale.


The Challenge


‘Lone Wolf’ attacks are particularly challenging because, as their name implies, they are carried out by individuals, most of whom not affiliated with terrorist organizations or even regarded as extremists by their government’s security services. The ‘crude’ attacks carried out by these individuals include the use of unconventional weapons: heavy vehicles like the truck used in the attack in Nice, France, knives which were used in the London Bridge attack or even the recent London Subway attack which some sources say was carried out with an improvised explosive device.


These characteristics as well as the fact that in democratic countries even those on government ‘watch lists’ cannot always be placed in custody, make these attacks particularly hard to predicts and stop and as many countries have recently come to realize, there is no country in the world which has the resources to respond to a terror attack within seconds or even minutes, especially if such an attack can be carried out at any time, over the entire country and by individuals with no distinct characteristics (especially since racial profiling is not allowed in most countries) by using readily accessible items used as weapons.


The Response


In light of these objective difficulties, it is perhaps time to consider utilizing the civilian security sector to assist state security forces in defending against such attacks. The benefits of the civilian security sector are clear: their personnel usually outnumber state security forces (not including militaries) by a few times over, most receive a certain degree of security training and many are staffed by former police and military personnel or others with similar experience, some might possess weapons of some type, and they are usually present at large public venues such as malls, promenades, train stations, etc., where the concentration of potential victims make terror attacks, including ‘Lone Wolf’ attacks more likely.


With these advantages, it is evident that the private security sector can assist in both preventing terror attacks, stopping them once they have begun and dealing with the aftermath (including evacuating bystanders, providing first aid to casualties and clearing access routes for first responders). These benefits are particularly relevant in ‘Lone Wolf’ attacks which are in many cases carried out by relatively inexperienced attackers and are not well planned or well funded and rely on relatively simple weapons.


But utilizing the private security sector in the fight against terror is not a simple process, certainly not something which can be accomplished overnight. Governments in democratic countries can only act within the scope of the power granted to them by law and cannot simply ‘draft’ private security members into service; governments will also need assets to organize and regulate the security industry in the performance of these duties and this will, in turn, require funding.


Then, of course, there is the side of the security sector: private security providers and venues currently utilizing private security will not necessarily be eager to adopt a new role in the fight against terror due to the significant costs and the added liability which could potentially be associated with such a step.


Lastly, there is also the question of whether private security forces would be allowed to carry firearms or other weapons or use any type of authority towards members of the public whom they suspect of planning to carry out an attack or having been involved in an attack.


All of these issues require a legal framework in order to work properly and of course, to maintain the right balance between security and human rights in a democratic society.


The Israeli Model


Israel has been facing security challenges from the day of its inception, some seventy years ago and while some would argue that the source of these challenges is different from the source of the current global security situation, it cannot be denied that the outcome is very much the same.


In Israel, as anyone visiting the country has noticed, private security personnel are widely used: airports, railway stations, malls, and during specific periods of heightened security, cafes, and restaurants, are all guarded by private security personnel of varying skill levels, many of whom are armed and possess special ‘search and detain’ powers given to them under strict rules, by the state.


This situation is of course not a result of a random set of decisions but of specific legislation which in turn allowed the building of a security infrastructure which consists of security regulators, regulated entities, predetermined threat levels, special regulations (including rules of engagement for use of firearms and other powers) and even certified security academies and instructors.


In doing so, Israel divides the world of security into several categories, the first of which divides the country into security regulated entities and unregulated entities. Government facilities are, for example, are regulated entities and required to maintain security at a certain predetermined level, but high tech companies (which are abundant in Israel), on the other hand, are not regulated, and may, therefore, choose not to have any type of security but if they do wish to employ armed security personnel they must seek special police authorization and abide by police regulations.


Within the regulated entities, some are regulated under a law dealing with ‘Public Organizations’ while others fall under the category of business licensing law, prevention of violence in sports law, maritime & aviation security laws, etc. and there is also a law dealing with compensation of victims of terror attacks, which also provides coverage to those harmed by the response to the attack.


Israel’s regulation of security is divided into four areas of regulation: physical security, cyber security, data protection and security clearance. Naturally, some entities fall under several categories: an entity in the field of infrastructure, for example, may be required to meet physical security requirements as well as cybersecurity and data protection standards, a sports stadium or mall might only be required to meet physical security requirements and a network provider or cellular company might be required to meet only cyber and data security standards.


Israel’s model, it is important to point out, is flexible enough to quickly include new organizations under the security regulations, add or retract fields or regulation (adding the field of cybersecurity for example) and of course issue, at short intervals, new binding regulations and procedures.


But the Israeli model is far from perfect: too many regulators, 5 regulators of security, acting under the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Defense and Prime Minister’s Office and yet others dealing with privacy, firearms and security companies raise concerns of an overly bureaucratic system and of regulators who fail to coordinate their actions with each other and with relevant govt. and public sectors and act with too little public oversight.


Additionally, many questions concerning how physical security is implemented remain unanswered: why are schools, where hundreds of thousands of children spend the majority of their day, for example, guarded at a relatively low level of security while train terminals are held to a much higher standard? Why are very busy malls frequented by tens of thousands of shoppers not required to maintain the same level of security required of much smaller airports, for example? Why security in public gathering areas such as promenades and parks which regularly contain thousands of persons and as such remain a target, is nonexistent and relies on police response and what is the role of some one hundred and fifty thousand armed Israeli civilians in the fight against terror.


Questions such as these exist in many of the regulated and unregulated security sectors in Israel and it seems that better state coordination, perhaps in the form of one central security authority, is required to set a clear path in this area, on a state level.


Regardless of the challenges Israel is still facing in this field, Israel’s dire experience and the lessons it has learned and implemented in this field make it an example from which other countries can learn when considering the use of the private security sector in combating terrorism in these challenging times.


Final Note


At the time of the publication of this article, a horrific ‘lone wolf’ attack in the City of Las Vegas ended the lives of some fifty-eight people and wounded hundreds more. Analysis of Las Vegas police radio transmissions indicates that police officers were on the scene, outside the gunman’s room within approximately fourteen minutes. At that time the shooting, which lasted, according to information released, some four and a half minutes, was already over. But what many failed to notice was the fact that hotel security officers were on scene when the shooting was still being carried out. These brave security officers were unarmed but never the less approached the shooter’s room and sealed off the area; one of them was even wounded by gunfire from the shooter’s room.


This is a prime example of the phrase ‘when every second counts, the police are minutes away’. This phrase is not used here as a criticism of the Las Vegas police or any other police force, it is an objective fact supporting the idea that utilizing private security in the fight against terrorism can shorten response times, thereby diminishing the effect of the attack.


In Israel, hotel security officers are armed and trained not only to identify suspicious behavior but also to provide an armed response to an active shooter incident. Perhaps the Las Vegas shooting could have ended differently had this been the case in the Mandalay Bay Hotel.



*Perry Novotny is an attorney licensed to practice law in Israel and New York and a principal of the world’s first security law firm which deals with the legal aspects of security. Mr. Novotny is a former member of the Israel National Police, a licensed firearms instructor and a reserve officer in the IDF JAG corps. Mr. Novotny may be contacted at the following email address:


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