An interview by Peter Sonnekus-Williams with Martin Brand (MB) of AAS Security in Gstaad and James Otigbah (JO) of Excel Security Solutions in Gstaad.
PSW -There are quite a few private security companies working in the Saanenland area, is there enough task for everyone?
JO – By all indications, there are upwards of 40 real estate agencies in the region, this should be an indication of the type of clientele there is here. I know of 4 security companies that operate in the region, each one has their unique strengths while some areas overlap.
MB - To be exact there are four security companies (in personnel security) working regularly in the Saanenland. There is in general enough work for all in the region, but not in all specific areas of security. Overall I think these four companies have a good relation with each other, and often task together.
PSW - How far away from Gstaad do you operate?
MB - In personnel security we operate 99% in Saanenland, and don’t want to do more outside.
In technical security we work in Saanenland and Obersimmental. On the monitoring centre we have connected objects throughout the German area of Switzerland, but 95% also in Saanenland, some in Bern, Zurich and East Switzerland.
JO -We have operated all over Switzerland and abroad. This year we were at the WEF in Davos, we worked for the Zurich Film Festival, providing executive protection to the President of the Jury and we had several international business clients travelling around Switzerland.
Internationally, we have had security mandates in Africa. In Nigeria we were protecting a former Vice President during the Presidential elections. We also worked for a private family in the United Arab Emirates. In September of this year, we assisted an international hotel chain in extracting their expatriate employees and guests from Tripoli in Libya.
PSW -Would you say that in Gstaad the presence of your company is to display proactive prevention or are you about reaction.
JO - Good security is always proactive; this is the very essence of our company’s philosophy. Prevention is always much more effective and in the long run more cost-effective than reaction. It is also more discreet and professional.
MB – Both, we have patrols out each day and night, together with technical rounds, this forms a proactive presence. This is particularly important in the slower between season times when it becomes very quiet in the village.
PSW - Do you think that chalets in the area are secure enough for the present situation?
MB –It’s very individual, and there are a lot of different views. Security is an individual feeling at the end. And not everybody has the same measure. In general there is a good standard here. In most cases of a consulting, we don’t need to make a big concept. Sometimes the systems are old and need to be changed or we just need to consider some organisational measures.
JO -The level of security in each chalet depends on the person’s perception of security, how much they can afford and which security company has advised them. From my experience, the chalets range from one extreme to the other; from fortresses to people who have a false sense of security.
PSW -Not everybody can afford a top security package for their home. What can be engaged to ensure a good level of security at a reasonable price?
JO- The cornerstone of good security is awareness. Awareness is a mind-set which does not cost anything. Also, nowadays you can get reasonable priced systems, depending on the size of the property. What I find surprising is that even though chalets are built primarily of wood, many are not equipped with appropriate fire detecting systems. A fire will cause more damage and loss (of life) than a burglary.
MB- This is always depended how far you want to guarantee safety or security. For a few hundred Francs you can get a good safe/fire safe or a better lock on the door or a stand-alone fire detector. A security guard for one evening for an event also doesn’t cost a fortune. And in opposite to this, for sure, permanent protection 24/7 is very expensive.
PSW -Is theft from chalets something to be concerned about in Gstaad? Are there many incidents?
MB – Each year there are some incidents in the Saanenland, some in Chalets. But in view of how many, it is very few. But it would be wrong to say there is nothing. History has always shown that were there is
wealth, there will be incidents. Also with the prolific use of modern communication technologies, the discretion of our patrons to Gstaad becomes more compromised. To this point everybody needs to be more sensible about posting their whereabouts on social networks. This is a new social phenomenon with risks.
JO- Although chalet incidents rarely come to light in the media, I know of several incidents. It would be in the interest of the media as a service to the community to report such incidents in order to make people more vigilant. Whenever there is an incident, people are quick to point their fingers at the police and the municipality, accusing them of not doing enough. The responsibility for security is generally placed on the police, which is not fair. If people spend several millions on buying a flat or a chalet, which in turn attracts criminals, they should share the responsibility. What we are being asked to protect against within the last few months is vandalism.
PSW -There was a recent robbery in a Jewellery store on the promenade in Gstaad, what is your view on this regarding how they get away.
JO-Everybody has this conception that a criminal will rob a shop/bank/chalet and then attempt to leave the region. I have always heard that Gstaad is safe, because in case of a robbery, the few ways in and out can rapidly be blocked by police road blocks. Criminals know this too. Professionals most probably rent a flat, commit the crime, return to the flat and stay low for a couple of days until the heat has died down, before leaving the area.
MB- It’s difficult to say. When you take a map and look how many options of going out of our region if it’s by car or even with backpack over the mountains and how many possibilities to hide it makes it difficult for the police to catch them direct after such an incident. Most often delinquents like this become arrested after they make more burglaries.
PSW -Do you think that the Promenade of Gstaad would benefit from a security camera system?
MB -To put cameras only in the promenade would not be a solution. It would be necessary to develop a complete concept with principal roads, railway stations, and a lot of important places. Before one speaks about cameras and solutions you need to have a concept what you want to achieve with the cameras. Is it prevention, do u want to be able to identify a person in a night while it’s snowing? Do u want just to evaluate after an incident, or monitoring in real time? Are there so many incidents that it’s necessary to invest so much money? Who is going to pay? Is it not cheaper to make two more security patrols every day? To make it short: At some point a camera for prevention may be a benefit. The current situation requires it not to be necessarily.
JO- Cameras alone: No. Cameras are only effective if constantly monitored and combined with a rapid intervention force. Anybody familiar with Monte Carlo will tell you that they have cameras everywhere. However, the true deterrent factors are the police officers strategically placed throughout the city. The cameras, which are monitored at all times, are used to pick out suspicious activities and persons and the police can react to the information that is relayed to them.