EXCLUSIVE: Mitigating risk in public spaces

Public space and security

Share this content


The development of various techniques such as security barriers to deter physical attacks enables better protection of the public, says Jacob Caval, President, Cavalli Corp.

Safety in public spaces

Safety and security in large public spaces have been a challenge for many years, particularly during major events.

Even the brightest of minds have struggled with mitigating risk to the public while keeping those public spaces open and inviting.

Whether it’s physical security barriers, surveillance measures, predictive behavioral analysis or increased law enforcement presence, there are many methods to help mitigate risk to the public.

While it will never be perfect, the question is: given the technological advancements over the years, are public safety efforts keeping up?

Acts of targeted violence impact cities and communities of all shapes and sizes and they can happen in the places we live, work and play.

According to the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), the top methods for mass attacks in public spaces include those with a weapon (firearm, bladed weapon, blunt object), vehicular attacks and the use of explosives.

Of course, major public events, whether scheduled activities or unplanned mass gatherings (such as a protest or civil disturbance) provide an optimal target for crimes of opportunity.

While law enforcement plays a critical role in establishing protocols to ensure public safety is of the utmost priority, our communities also have a responsibility to provide reciprocal preventative measures to help protect personnel.

Of the many methods used to deter physical attacks in public spaces, one of the most common is the utilization of security barriers.

These are commonly used to protect critical infrastructure, stop projectile impacts, provide ballistic resistance and protect pedestrians in areas of high foot traffic.

The popularity of security barriers in public spaces has increased tremendously due to an increased demand in commercial, residential and high-end security applications.

In fact, in a study conducted by Grand View Research, the global barrier system market is expected to reach $24.5 billion by 2025, registering a compound annual growth rate of 9.8% from 2020 to 2025.

Continued surges in incidents of security breaches, mass casualties and an increased need for general public safety will only continue to fuel the demand for these barriers.

When identifying methods for risk mitigation in large public spaces, several important aspects should be considered.

Balancing physical measures with an open, inviting community

One approach that has become increasingly popular in public spaces is the use of paint to add artistic flair to traditional concrete jersey barriers.

Since its inception over 12 years ago, the New York City Department of Transportation’s Barrier Beautification Program has completed over 41 projects to transform necessary, protective concrete barriers into works of art.

In this way, the city is hoping the public focuses less on the fear of an attack and more on the beautiful environment around them.

Another approach that continues to gain momentum and is arguably a much more effective deterrent, is the use of a multi-functional security barrier.

These security barriers are commonly designed as planters, which can integrate seamlessly into the public space environment around them.

However, due to the inherent nature of planter construction, they have potential structural integrity issues, making them less effective against vehicular attacks.

An emerging effective solution integrates customizability into the strongest, most reinforced concrete barriers.

One method to accomplish this would be securely affixing customizable plates to the front of the barriers, allowing them to be inherently strong, single pour concrete units, while still allowing for some flexibility to integrate them seamlessly into the environment around them.

In this way, the strongest of units can complement its environment, maintaining the appeal of an open, beautiful community.

Utilizing behavioral detection analysis to identify potential attackers

Behavioral detection analysis is a common method to help identify potential attackers in large public spaces.

Whether through more traditional means using increased police observation or more advanced digital surveillance methods used to identify suspicious behavior, actively seeking clues to deter potential attacks has proven effective.

One method to improve utilization is simply deploying additional resources. The use of 360-degree cameras within security barriers to give visibility during public events and identify potential threats is key. Does it look like someone is excited to be at the event?

Or does it appear as though they are nervous, jumpy or have suspicious intent? Integrating cameras within security barriers that are being deployed for a specific event will give law enforcement necessary additional resources to help identify potential threats and respond quickly.

Furthermore, consider the rapidly growing evolution of AI. The potential for integrating AI-powered video analytics that can quickly analyze mass amounts of data and identify potential anomalies, making this option even more appealing, especially when deployed for a specific public event.

AI can even identify patterns and trigger an alert if, for example, an individual is loitering in a specific area for a certain amount of time. Utilized correctly, AI can serve as an effective force multiplier, automating repetitive monitoring tasks and providing meaningful, actionable data.

Protecting civilians, law enforcement and critical infrastructure

Resources have long since been dedicated to protecting the public and public spaces. However, there is also an opportunity to optimize security barriers as an effective resource and protective measure for law enforcement.

In addition to the very practical use of a security barrier for ballistic resistance during active gunfire exchange, managing protest crowds is one progressively challenging issue.

In an increasingly heated political climate, it has become more critical than ever to refine the procedures that effectively manage crowds during a protest or civil unrest in public spaces.

Law enforcement by nature is put into a difficult situation; they must protect the public and allow freedom of expression while ensuring civil disobedience does not escalate to a riot.

A practical use for a security barrier in this case would not only be to physically manage crowd control, but, if integrated effectively, utilize technological advancements built within the security barrier to give law enforcement the additional support needed. These intelligent barriers can provide a physical block between critical infrastructure, law enforcement and the general public, but also help to establish order in a time of chaos.

Say, for example, a crowd is advancing upon an established perimeter. The barrier could provide auditory and visual cues to redirect civilians. If necessary, additional measures could also be deployed, such as a mildly deafening sound gun or non-lethal gas release. These features could be controlled remotely through a secure application, reducing the need for increased physical presence of law enforcement. This protects both the interests of the general public as well as providing additional protection and support for law enforcement.

While risk will never be eliminated in large crowds or public spaces, there are steps that can be taken to help mitigate potential devastating outcomes. There have been many advancements in physical security barriers and technology separately, but together these can be a powerful combination. The effective integration of advanced technology into sturdy, physical barriers is an opportunity that can help protect civilians, critical infrastructure and our valued law enforcement alike. All of this can be accomplished while maintaining the integrity of the beautiful communities in which we live.

About the company

Established in 2004, Cavalli Corp began as a concrete product manufacturing company, specializing in decorative concrete design. Today, Cavalli manufactures high-end intelligent security barriers for public and private use.

This article was originally published in the August edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox