Security at major events here a concern
Local security firms face challenges like shortage of manpower, lack of counter-terrorism training
Staff from local event organiser LAMC Productions were surprised when security personnel did not check ticket-holders with handheld detectors at recent concerts.
In the concert area, they also spotted security staff watching the performers on stage, and not looking out for potential danger signs, suspicious characters or unattended bags in the crowd.
With Singapore staging more international concerts, conventions and sports events, security arrangements here have come under the spotlight, especially after Monday's terror attack in Manchester.
The suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured 64 just after pop star Ariana Grande's performance at the Manchester Arena, triggering the blast in a public space as concertgoers filed out.
Security firms The New Paper contacted said they face a number of challenges policing events, stretching from manpower shortage to handling latecomers, which inadvertently means a less than thorough security check to hurry them in.
Grande has suspended her Dangerous Woman tour in the UK and Switzerland till June 5 and tickets will be refunded for the cancelled shows. But her scheduled performance here on the sidelines of the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix in September is on.
Co-founder of LAMC Productions Lauretta Alabons told The New Paper how her production team had to instruct security personnel at one event to face the fans instead of watching the show.
LAMC also had to bring its own handheld detectors as they were not provided by the security companies.
Ms Alabons said: "Security is of utmost importance to us, but the security companies we had hired weren't even alert enough to the smallest things."
The next big concert in Singapore will be on Sunday, when rock icon Sting performs at the Indoor Stadium.
Aetos, one of the main security firms here, is part of the concert's total security deployment.
A spokesman said: "We have the necessary equipment and technology, such as body-worn cameras and specially designed GPS communication devices for our auxiliary police officers.
"We always work closely with the event organisers and regulatory authorities to determine the security requirements for the event.
"Our officers are trained to look out for any potential threats at any given deployment. They will also be thoroughly briefed before being deployed for events."
Changes were made to the Public Order Act last month and now, organisers of large-scale or higher-risk events have to put necessary measures in place to help protect against terrorist or public order threats.
But a lack of manpower is an issue.
Mr Gary Haris, 42, senior business development manager of KH Security Agency, told TNP its security personnel are trained in counter-terrorism activities, screening of people and bags, and crowd and traffic control.
"The biggest challenge the security industry faces is the shortage of manpower.
"We can only employ Singaporeans and Malaysians," he pointed out.
After the Manchester attack, the company will be hiring 20 per cent more security personnel.
Mr Ong Kok Leong, chief operating officer of Secura Group, parent company of security and risk consultant company Soverus, said for events like concerts, personnel are hired on an ad-hoc or part-time basis.
Regardless of their employment status, all are trained and certified by the Police Licensing and Regulatory Department.
The Association of Certified Security Agencies represents 119 security agencies in Singapore.
Its vice-president Weers Terry Nicholas told TNP that more than 50 per cent of security personnel here do not go for counter-terrorism training.
He said: "It is not a requirement for all security personnel to go as it is based on the sites they are guarding. For security personnel who do duty at concerts, it is a must."
MP Louis Ng, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committees for Home Affairs and Law, said all parties must cooperate to make events as safe as possible.
"Even with the Public Order Act, I think ultimately, beyond legislation, it's not only up to security firms, but for everyone to work together to counter terrorism in Singapore," he said.
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The amendments to the Public Order Act last month would be deemed timely now, in the wake of the Manchester terror attack on Monday.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the Act was amended to require organisers of large scale or higher-risk events to take necessary measures to help protect against terrorist or public order threats.
The spokesman told TNP: "We will also be introducing a new Infrastructure Protection Act later this year. This will require new, large-scale developments to incorporate security measures when they are being designed, similar to what we do for critical infrastructure today.
"The Act may also require owners of premises to adopt additional protective measures... in the event of a heightened security climate.
"These legislative amendments will help protect Singapore against terror attacks by improving security at key events and buildings. They complement MHA's ongoing efforts to improve security response, community vigilance and preparedness against terrorism threats."
Certis Cisco and Aetos are two of the biggest private security firms in Singapore.
A Cisco spokesman said: "In Certis Cisco, we invest substantial resources to upgrade the skills and knowledge of our security personnel. We also constantly review and align our procedures to better integrate the physical security operations with technology to keep threats at bay."
An Aetos spokesman said: "A new training module, 'Handle Incidents', was introduced in Aetos Training Academy last year, where trainees are taught how to respond to a bomb blast or a terrorist threat. All officers are also required to undergo an SGSecure module, where they are taught what to do in the event of a terror attack while they are off duty."