Security Profiling and Intuition

09/28/2012 | By Michael Fickes

Suppose a casually dressed young man, a stranger, walks into your lobby. While he mostly seems nonchalant, his body language hints at nervousness – his arms swing a bit too far, he walks a little too fast. No one has to tell you to approach the young man and say, “May I help you?” while studying his demeanor, body language, and answers. Drawing on similar past experiences, your intuition tells you to investigate and determine whether or not he has a legitimate purpose.

Pattern recognition and predictive profiling are security methods that fine-tune natural instincts with logic and reasoning. Security officers, receptionists, business managers, and custodial workers can benefit from this training.

Recognize Patterns to Dispel Security Situations  
Pattern recognition is more than just a gut feeling – it prompts an officer to draw on that initial response to explore a situation in more detail.

“It’s your intuition, built up through repeated experiences, that you have unconsciously linked together to form a pattern. A pattern is a set of cues that usually chunk together so that if you see a few of the cues, you can expect to find the others,” writes Gary Klein in his book, The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work. Klein is chairman of Klein Associates, a company that trains professionals to improve intuitive decision-making.

Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, consults on preK-12 security. One of Safe Havens’ services is to train educators and security personnel in what Dorn calls pattern recognition, a concept similar to Klein’s definition of intuition.

“We train clients to recognize and respond when a person or situation doesn’t seem right,” says Dorn. “For instance, one of our training officers once noticed that students in line to board a bus to go home after school didn’t seem to want to get on the bus. They were just milling around. He decided to ask why.”

“He approached on his bicycle, noticing that one of the students was a gang member. He asked why no one would board the bus. All the kids knew why. ‘Those three guys across the street are in a rival gang,’ said one student. ‘We’re afraid they’re going to shoot at the bus as it drives by,’ said another.”

“The officer swung his bicycle past the three gang members, noticed a gun in one man’s pocket and called the police, who responded and took the man in for questioning. That’s pattern recognition – paying attention, sensing, and not ignoring those little alarms that go off in your head,” says Dorn.

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