Risk profiling

Joanne Taylor, Director of Public Security at business analytics specialist SAS, says the NAO report highlights how difficult it is to manage the tough trade-off between efficiency, cost and security at Britain’s borders, as staff attempt to juggle competing objectives while having to deal with on-going resourcing issues.

Sep 12, 2013
By Paul Jacques

Joanne Taylor, Director of Public Security at business analytics specialist SAS, says the NAO report highlights how difficult it is to manage the tough trade-off between efficiency, cost and security at Britain’s borders, as staff attempt to juggle competing objectives while having to deal with on-going resourcing issues.

“With talk of three-hour waits in passport control in the run-up to London 2012, the emphasis on cutting queues is understandable, but it must never be allowed to take precedence over the need to maintain the tightest levels of security and keep our borders safe,” she said.

“Ultimately, to achieve the desired balance between cost, passenger convenience and security, a risk-based approach is the only pragmatic solution and is far more viable than the current traditional security techniques.”

Ms Taylor said that at its best, a risk-based approach effectively deploys intelligence, data analytics and behavioural modelling to assess the levels of risk that each individual poses.

She explained: “The approach employs complex algorithms and advanced risk management to evaluate whether an individual is a legitimate traveller and as such should freely pass through our borders or be subject to further scrutiny – allowing low-risk travellers to quickly pass through border control, increasing efficiency and highlighting to staff high-risk travellers that need to be stopped, intelligently honing security at the same time. It’s an approach based on fact and a solution that becomes more and more accurate the more data is fed into it.”

Ms Taylor added that it was not just about passengers.

“The NAO report highlights clearly that illegal cargo entering through borders is every bit as big a headache to border staff and another area that they are tempted to let slip in order to keep queue times low,” she said.

“Risk-profiling technology is proven in this space as well – the Korean Customs Service (KCS) used SAS’ risk-based technology solutions to detect illegal cargo and reported a 20 per cent increase in the detection at their borders once the solution had been implemented. The solution pointed the KCS staff to suspicious containers as they reached the border, enabling the efficient deployment of staff to open particular containers, rather than relying on intuition and random checking.

“Essentially, rather than leading to more open borders, it actually significantly enhances protection while helping make processes more efficient and minimising queues.”

Ms Taylor believes that taking into account the ongoing challenges that the Border Force is facing and that the NAO report identifies, implementing a risk-based approach is a genuine alternative.

“And given the issues with morale and pressures on staff, using fact-based risk profiling technology to analyse data has the added benefit of driving these efficiencies while taking pressure off human decision-making,” she said.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said the Home Office has placed greater demands on the Border Force, which has successfully implemented full passenger checks and reduced queuing times.

“It has achieved this progress by focusing on a subset of its full range of responsibilities. The Border Force now needs to show it can apply the lessons learnt from its successes to date across its full range of activities to ensure the security of the border. The Department needs to fund it to do so,” he said.

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