Joint border intelligence units and joint border working
Author: Neville Brooklyn Hay of Brooklyn Associates and Director of Training at Interportpolice.
As an avid supporter of joint working it is now more than ever before that we look closely at collaboration. History has shown that by collaborating we are best placed to achieve and solve issues by working together. It is becoming more in vogue, so to speak, whereas before entities worked in silos and would not share information let alone talk to one another. Trust is at the heart of collaboration.
The world we live in today is comparatively small when we talk in terms of cross border crime, illegal migration and terrorism. We have witnessed the impact on states with regards to illegal migration and how quickly it affects states in terms of providing humanitarian relief, all of which has a cost implication.
The terrible scenes witnessed in the Mediterranean basin where individuals are just trying to escape to find a better life for their families and loved ones. Exposing themselves to risk feeding the greed of organised crime gangs who are not interested in humanity, for them the human is a commodity a leverage to make money. Human greed making a profit from those vulnerable individuals exploited at every opportunity. The question I always ask myself is, if I were faced with the same issues as these families would I seek a better life for my family and take the risk or stay in an area of deprivation, war torn or under siege, the answer is no. Ask any mother let alone father, what she would do to protect her family.
The question is how to manage not just these vulnerable individuals whose identity may not be known but also how do we manage our borders in terms of who is travelling, who is a risk and threat. How can we work together to assist each other? Being proactive at our borders is key and this can be achieved more effectively when we work together from the local environment to the global environment through gateways, MOU’s and international agreements.
I joined the police force in 1985 and completed my service involved in Special Branch and National Security at the border in 2016. When I first joined the only computer data base was PNC, the Police National Computer. There were no data bases in vehicles or mobile phones. My Sergeant at that time Bob, was an ex motorway patrol sergeant who had worked the M1, the busiest motorway in the UK at that time. He reminded me of Bob Cryer from the TV series, ‘The Bill’ and if I am honest I modelled myself on Bob and Bob Cryer as they both just wanted to get the job done. I recall when I stopped an individual for a traffic offence, reported him at the scene only to find out later and using a police term at that time, I had been twirled.
Every cop will have gone through this. It is a lesson you have to learn. In essence the individual had given me false details. Bob said, the motorway was the link for cross border crime, the travelling professional criminals, when stopping an individual, it was a onetime opportunity to ensure that the person sitting in his car is the person they say they are and you have done everything in your power to confirm this because once you let them go they are gone and tracing someone on the motorway once they had gone was near impossible (not so much today).
The point of this story is to highlight the same issues at our borders. There is an opportunity to ensure we are happy with the individual and who they say they say are using the technology available today. However this is not the M1 motorway, this is a global pathway and it requires a global exchange.
Andrew Priestly a colleague I have known for some time wrote an excellent article in the Border Security Report September/October 2017 regarding API and PNR data. API and PNR provides essential information to pass through official data bases and with the ability to take finger prints electronically, iris scan and facial recognition, match and cross match in an instance sharing information in seconds through integrated technology depending on international agreements and assuming the differing locations have the technology, making use of API and PNR will have an impact in detecting, deterring and detaining individuals and subsequently protecting the state. Technology is the main driver allowing us to confirm information or provide information.
What we do locally impacts globally. Therefore, ensuring entities at the border work closely with one another will provide benefits. Joint border collaboration and joint border working can be achieved by joint border intelligence units. I was part of the shadow border police command at Gatwick Airport when it was first introduced, the precursor to the NCA, the National Crime Agency. Like any change there are challenges not just in equipment but in a raft of things. To quote a colleague, change is always messy to start with, but satisfying in the end. Making it work can be difficult. However, the outcome is an intelligence community that can assist one another, form trusted partnerships, share technology and resources.
API and PNR data provides a key element and an opportunity to allow agencies become hunters. It is estimated that there are 700,000 people in the air at any given time. Who is a threat? More importantly, how can one keep a watchful eye? A state will have a watch list this can be for various reasons. It may be for an outstanding warrant, traffic fines or person of interest involved in serious organised crime or terrorism or a vulnerable missing person intending to leave the country, looking for the needle in the Haystack is difficult, however, by removing some of the haystack the needle becomes easier to find. The majority of passengers do not pose a threat.
If a person is of interest but not necessarily wanted, i.e. on a warrant for arrest it is possible the person may be a low priority depending on the interest in that individual. We also have to take into account the individuals often use airports and other transport hubs as a meeting place and may not pass the border controls but will have to enter the environment. Vital intelligence can be lost or gained if we don’t make use of technology for lawful purposes.
By making use of technology software with a shared cost between entities, airport authority, police, crime agencies, national security and immigration and customs it is possible for everyone to benefit, including the travelling public. Making use of known intelligence and API data will provide opportunity through facial recognition and HD camera technology to identify individuals at the earliest opportunity when they arrive at an airport. This acts similar to ANPR automatic number plate recognition which can provide information of the vehicle approaching an airport or on airport.
It allows opportunity to deal directly with that person, it may also provide other intelligence leads gained through meetings that may take place at an airport. This will necessitate early interdiction by authorities and prevent delays in aircraft departure or on occasions making an aircraft return to stand and prevent travel of individuals who may be a risk to the aircraft. It refines and reduces the haystack allowing the majority of passengers to go about their business. With the introduction of trusted traveller schemes and registering of frequent travellers will enable a seamless flow of passengers.
In essence it is not just API / PNR data that is such an important and essential tool it is more so the ability of agencies working jointly at the border sharing information and the cost of technology that allows them as separate entities to create secured gateways for their own information to be placed and the horizon scanned hunting for subjects of interest in organised crime or terrorism. It is not about big brother it is about seeking out those who may be a risk to the state, passengers and or aircraft. Organised crime and terrorism affects every community and we have to protect our communities there are no boundaries where organised crime and terrorism live.
Joint border working and joint border intelligence will assist all entities and colleagues involved in the operational side of the business at borders, sharing best practise for investigations, the processes or procedures and technology used to enhance investigations, exchange, train and share with other states to improve their ability, ensuring evidence capture, intelligence and promote the successful prosecution of International offenders. Becoming hunters not fishermen.
Interportpolice has been involved in the development of an application designed for policing and security operating at our borders to enable sharing of information on a secured platform. Most entities are using What’s App to communicate with each other which is not ideal albeit it works. Griffin C-One provides a service superior to What’s App; it enables entities to corroborate and message quickly, enabling communication at the operational level and improving how we work at borders. Sometimes it is the simplest of things that makes life so much easier, however, it is those at the operational end that get the job done.
This article was originally posted by the author on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/joint-border-intelligence-neville-hay-avsec-pm-msyl/