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Case Study: A Successful Crowd Dispersal Without Force at the Darwin Show

The task of managing crowds, particularly in terms of dispersal without resorting to force, is a delicate endeavor that requires a sophisticated understanding of human behaviour, economic principles, and strategic communication.

Crowd control, at its core, is about managing resources—both the human resources of the security personnel and the spatial and temporal resources of the environment where the crowd is present. Spontaneous order arises when individuals within the crowd are given the freedom to act based on their own information and incentives. This implies that a crowd, when properly informed and provided with the right incentives, can regulate itself without the need for external force.

The psychological aspect of crowd control cannot be overstated. The collective unconscious reveal that individuals in a crowd can often act as a homogenous body, responding to symbols and narratives more than to rational arguments. Security strategies, therefore, must engage with these underlying psychological drivers. By understanding the narratives that the crowd is responding to, security personnel can tailor their approach to align with these narratives, thereby guiding the crowd towards a peaceful dispersal. The following is based on my written recollection of a large crowd dispersal at the Royal Darwin Show, the names of individuals apart from my senior supervisor at the event have been omitted to respect their privacy. The use of my supervisor's name is to appropriately acknowledge his directions and decisions that led to a positive result.

A case study that I was lucky enough to be a part of illustrates how the successful application of these principles involved a confrontation at a large public event. The crowd, though mostly lawful, was beginning to show signs of restlessness and agitation. The security team, rather than escalating the situation by showing force, chose to employ strategic positioning and open lines of communication.

My colleagues provided clear and calm instructions on where the crowd could go to continue their activities without disruption. The significance of non-threatening communication in de-escalating potentially volatile situations informed this strategy.

The security team also used technology to their advantage. They used communication radios for crowd and we used posted guards as spotters to surveil and figure out where problems might happen before they happened. The security team was able to effectively manage the crowd without direct intervention thanks to this preventive strategy.

Most of us were already trained in non-verbal communication techniques. The strategic use of lighting, obstacles, and space helped create an environment that naturally encouraged the crowd to disperse without feeling coerced.

Following the subtle cues given by the security team, the crowd in this instance started to disperse peacefully. The team's understanding of economic incentives, psychological behaviours, and tactical communication proved essential in resolving what could have been a tense situation without the use of force.

Our senior supervisor, Astro, directed this strategy, which was not only concerned with the immediate situation but also had long-term implications. Building trust with the community through transparent and non-aggressive crowd management tactics leads to more peaceful interactions during the rest of the show. This trust is crucial, as Astro explained, in ensuring that the crowd perceives the security personnel not as an opposing force but as facilitators of their lawful right to assemble.

The successful dispersal of a crowd without force is not a matter of chance but the result of a multidisciplinary approach that respects the psychological dimensions of human behaviour. By acknowledging the principles of individual freedom, providing clear incentives and information, engaging with collective psychology, and employing strategic communication and environmental design, security personnel can effectively manage large gatherings in a way that respects the rights of individuals and maintains peace.

From the author.

The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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