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The Evolution of Patrols in Security




The security industry has always been complex, but one constant across all security agencies is the function of patrol. To fully appreciate the nuances of modern patrol, it's essential to understand its origins, development, and evolution. As Eugene O’Neill the playwright aptly noted, “The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future, too.” This perspective is crucial for grasping the essence of patrol today.


The term "patrol" likely derives from the French word "patrouiller," meaning "to tramp in the mud," reflecting the arduous, tiring nature of early patrol duties. The written concept dates back to 2100 B.C., with Hammurabi’s messengers in Babylon and Amenhotep’s marine patrols in ancient Egypt. In early Greece, guard systems protected vital structures and figures, while in Rome, quaestores and later the Praetorian Guards and Vigiles maintained order and security.


As society progressed, so did the structure of security. In England, the system of tithings, hundreds, and shires laid the groundwork for modern policing. By the 1200s, the watch system emerged, leading to the formation of organised patrol groups. The 19th century brought significant advancements, with Henry Fielding’s Bow Street Runners and Sir Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police Act, which established a structured, organised police force emphasising patrol as a deterrent to crime.


In America, patrol roots trace back to Boston's night watch in 1636 and New York City's "rattle watch" in 1658. By the mid-1800s, uniformed and paid police became standard, and the patrol function became integral to both public law enforcement and private security agencies.


At its core, a patrol aims to prevent and control loss by providing protection and observation. While this definition seems simple, the functions of patrol officers are diverse and complex, tailored to organisational needs. These include detecting and deterring criminal activity, ensuring compliance with policies, assessing and reporting hazards, and responding to emergencies.


Patrol officers today protect not just physical assets but also intellectual property and human resources. Their responsibilities have grown with societal changes, including increased violence, drug-related crime, and legal complexities. Modern patrol is not just about "tramping in the mud" but involves sophisticated training, equipment, and technology.


Patrols can be conducted on foot or using various vehicles, with each method offering distinct advantages. Foot patrols allow officers to intimately know their assigned areas, establish relationships, and detect anomalies using their senses. However, they cover smaller areas and can be time-consuming.


Mobile patrols, using cars, bicycles, scooters, or other vehicles, cover larger areas and provide access to emergency equipment. Each type of vehicle offers unique benefits and constraints, influenced by factors such as cost, maintenance, and the nature of the facility.


Effective patrol begins with thorough preparation. Officers must present a professional appearance, maintain a positive attitude, and ensure their equipment is functional. Knowing the facility "like the back of their hand" is crucial, including the location of emergency equipment and potential hazards.


Patrol should be conducted randomly to prevent predictability by varying routes and times. Communication with command centres and thorough documentation of observations are essential. Officers must remain alert, using all senses to detect unusual situations, and practice light and noise discipline to stay undetected.


Internal factors like fatigue, boredom, and personal problems can impact patrol effectiveness. External factors, such as environmental conditions and time, also play a role. Understanding these influences helps officers maintain high performance.


Fixed posts, while not patrols per se, are a critical part of security, requiring a clear understanding of duties, proper equipment, and effective communication. Officers must be prepared for a variety of situations and maintain professional conduct at all times. Static positioning during a patrol creates the illusion that there are multiple guards onsite and has proven very effective.


Security, with patrol as its backbone, is a timeless necessity, evolving from ancient practices to modern complexities. Today's security officers bear greater responsibilities, requiring technical competence, legal knowledge, and versatile skills. Embracing best practices, continuous training, and a professional mindset transforms patrol from a rudimentary task to a vital, respected profession.


Professional patrol performance can be encapsulated in the acronym


P.A.T.R.O.L.: Preparation, Alertness, Thoroughness, Reports, Observations, and Language. 


This approach ensures that patrol officers are well-equipped to protect property and lives, prevent and detect crime, and perform their duties with excellence and integrity.


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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