Thursday, 15 September 2011

Conspicuous Security

Rewind to just after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. I'd like to draw your attention to the comments section in the post that's linked below, and the bit about conspicuous security.

Fast forward to January 2011. I'm sharing a rickshaw with a British expat. As we pass through Pali Hill, Bandra, we see a silver Rolls Royce (or a Maybach, I can't be sure) pull out of a swank building at high speed. It's immediately tailed by a police jeep nearby, equally fast, and on perfect cue as they drive up the road, a black unmarked security vehicle follows. All very quick and professional looking.

My companion remarks how silly it all is, how conspicuous the target vehicle is, and how vulnerable the target, were it to be attacked. He remarks that discretion would be a better way to go about it, travelling in one or a few unmarked vehicles, anonymously, not drawing attention to yourself, like they do abroad. But I'm still not sure.

I've always thought that in India, flashy security works better than discreet security. Firstly, travelling in a convoy of unmarked security vehicles is going to garner attention one way or another. The only benefit is hiding your target. And that's not much of a benefit when your convoy is going to be stuck in slow moving traffic anyway, were it to be attacked.

Secondly, Mumbai isn't exactly the venue for high-profile assassinations or 'hits'. Professional terrorists were able to overcome a good deal of policemen in November 2008, but your everyday Indian businessman, politician, or celebrity is going to be targeted by people a little more rustic, like freelance mafia hitmen with pistols. These types are neither well trained, well organised, or high-tech. And easily deterred by an obvious show of force.

So it would appear that conspicuousness wins over discretion, right? Well, that's what I thought, but I suppose things are changing. Who's to say that a rich business or political rival isn't going to hire a professional (or professionals) to do what your lowly hitman can't? In which case, your flashy show of force will come to naught, much like the security in place at VT that November. And in a situation like this, anonymous travel in a convoy makes more sense.

The advent of more high earning, high profile targets, susceptible to attack by increasingly armed and organised individuals, means more discretion can only be a good thing. Flashy conspicuous security might work at present, most of the time, but in the long run, it has got to evolve.



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