Business Improvement Districts: are they examples of security shining or security failing?

Jan 27, 2023Webinars and Blogs

BIDs, which operate under various names first grew to prominence in Canada and the USA and have since expanded across the world. In essence they involve businesses coming together to improve the local and business trading environment with mixed success. Certainly, the role for security varies, sometimes being (at best) marginal and other times core to improving trade and the local communities they serve. Why is this? What needs to change to enhance the role of security? This webinar will discuss:

  • What role can and does security play in enhancing trading conditions?
  • Why is the role of security seemingly so often marginal?
  • What needs to change to show how good security is core to effective trading? 

Chair: Professor Martin Gill

Chris Turner – CEO, British BIDs
Grant Stewart – Senior Projects Manager, Essential Edinburgh
Karol Doherty – BID Security Manager, WeAreWaterloo BID

Key points
Karol Doherty notes that while many BIDs state they are actively involved in providing security, often what that involves is both minimal and marginal, although it can involve street patrols, it can involve training BID members, and this has been extended in some cases to providing advice on pending legislation, in the UK one example would be the implications of the Protect Duty. Often BIDs will collect and collate data and intelligence of local threats (Karol identifies the risks of phone thefts from offenders on bikes and scooters as being current concerns) and build up an understanding of crime patterns, prolific offenders, and help members think about how they can best protect against them. When done well this will involve collaboration with the police. 

Grant Stewart notes that in Edinburgh security is a top three priority. They fund a police officer who is dedicated to the BID, a key development that was the result of engaging key stakeholders over time; not everyone immediately gets the benefits of spending on security. This though has generated a good response to tackling issues such as retail crime and anti-social behavior (managing the challenges posed by youth is an important consideration) and in creating a sense of safety when working and visiting the area. Another key advantage to employing an officer is that it provides a strong link with the police service; it gets a ‘seat at the table’. The BID funds other initiatives too. While in an ideal world collaborating with other BIDs is an ideal, in practice many are small without dedicated staff and so their ability to be able to meaningfully engage is very limited. 

Professor Christopher Turner notes that BIDs differ markedly, about a half are small and employ one person, some have no paid staff, others have teams working to improve the area which usually, but not always (crime is not always a problem) includes a commitment to security. For example, nearly three quarters of BIDs are linked to a Business Crime Reduction Partnerships (BCRP) and the more organised and developed BIDs provide street patrols and while relationships with the police are often good (sometimes incorporating information sharing agreements), generally they are improving. Chris notes that part of the problem for BIDs is the broader context in which they operate; a decade of public sector expenditure reduction and restraint, and businesses reacting to harsh trading conditions by reducing their commitment to providing security. However lamentable it is it remains a reality. 

The panel were asked what they felt the priority for BIDS should be with regards to security moving forward. Karol drew attention to working with good people and ensuring the security service was effective, Grant highlighted the need to invest money and Chris on the benefits of working with a BCRP. 

Professor Martin Gill
23rd January 2023

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