Positive SPIN on Liaisons: Find out How the Security Police Information Network (SPIN) Promotes Public-Private Information Sharing

By Farber, Oksana | Security Management, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Positive SPIN on Liaisons: Find out How the Security Police Information Network (SPIN) Promotes Public-Private Information Sharing


Farber, Oksana, Security Management


AFTER ARRESTING A THIEF for using a counterfeit key and combination code to steal gasoline from various stations in Long Island, New York, a detective suspected that there were probably others using the same tactic. The officer reported the case to the Nassau County Security Police Information Network (SPIN)--an information-sharing tool that uses e-mail to connect law enforcement with the private sector.

The local head of security for Exxon Mobil is a member of SPIN. He went to his boss, the company's global security director, who confirmed that Exxon had witnessed a rash of unexplained gas thefts in the metro New York and Long Island areas that were presumed to be credit card scams.

After hearing about the counterfeit key and code, Exxon examined its pumps and determined that the keys were used to open a small door in the front of the pump. Thieves then used the code to take the pump offline, steal the gas, and put the pump back online before leaving. The thefts were so seamless that, in most cases, gas station attendants didn't even realize that the gas had been stolen until they discovered that the tanks were short fuel. The conservative estimate for losses from the scam was more than $100,000. The bleeding only stopped after SPIN authorities tipped off the Long Island Gas Retailers Association and local gas vendors were urged to use extra security until the pumps' flaws could be addressed.

Without an established network of law enforcement and private security professionals to tie together the theft patterns, it is likely that the pilfering in these New York gas stations would have continued unabated. SPIN's response to the thefts is a perfect example of the power of public-private partnerships. Creating these types of collaborative networks is vital to security, but it requires promoting the system, creating a network, and encouraging communication among members. One organization that has taken on those challenges is the Nassau County Police Department.

"I think that once police departments see the tremendous benefits of connecting electronically with the private sector, it'll be just a matter of time before we see SPIN-type networks developing throughout the United States," says Nassau County Police Commissioner James Lawrence. "Information sharing between the police department, other law enforcement and governmental agencies, and the private sector is part of our strategy to address homeland security, prevent crime, and apprehend criminals, as well as support business continuity and sustainability after a crisis," Lawrence notes.

Police and private industry security professionals interested in fostering this type of collaboration can learn a great deal from SPIN's experience. Following are the highlights of how they have carried out this initiative.

Participation

Participation in SPIN is voluntary and limited to security professionals and law enforcement personnel in the New York metropolitan area. Those wishing to participate must go through an application process that includes criminal and Department of Motor Vehicles background checks.

The applications are available online and ask the participant to identify his or her organization or business; to detail how many security and nonsecurity personnel are present in the company; and whether the security personnel are armed or unarmed. Once the application is received, a background screen is conducted that involves criminal records and DMV searches. Since SPIN's inception, more than 500 private industry and civic leaders have become participants.

In addition to the vetted SPIN community, a nonvetted network has recently been established. This allows community organizations such as chambers of commerce and neighborhood watch groups to receive nonsensitive security information. Those groups can then pass on SPIN information to members of their own organizations.

Receiving e-mails from SPIN does not require any special software on the part of the recipient. …

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