Sunday, 25 March 2018

Rural Crime in Alberta - A Layered Security Defence

The Foothills Rural Crime Watch Association will be hosting their 2018 Annual General Meeting in High River, Alberta at 1900hrs in the I.O.O.F. Hall. This meeting is open to all residents in the local area. 

In anticipation of this meeting, I have prepared a small brochure on basic security layers that can be adapted to meet the needs of ranchers, farmers and rural acreage owners. In fact, these security layers work for all situations. The more layers of security you apply around what you cherish the most, the longer and tougher it will be for the bad guys to get what you have. It may even discourage lazy criminals from even trying.

A free copy can be downloaded for personal use from the SATAS Co website on the resources page. Here is the link:

Layered Security Approach

Defined Perimeter


Clear Lines of Sight

Proper Lighting

Gates / Access Control Points

Early Warning Devices

Locks & Keys (& Their Control)

CCTV / Video Surveillance

Inner Perimeter Fence

Designated Purpose Areas / Buildings (Compartmentalize & Isolate)

Doors & Locks


Policy, Procedure & Plans

Security Force

Communications & Network

Defined Perimeter:

The entire outer perimeter of the property needs to be defined to show ownership. Traditionally, this is achieved with a perimeter fence. In the context of a rural acreage, farm or ranch this can be achieved with a simple fence line – post & rail, barbed-wire or page wire. Under most situations this outer line of defence is too cost prohibitive to make secure. Having said that, it is still very important to define the perimeter to show ownership. Any barrier that must be crossed, climbed over or crawled under, shows the intent of the intruder. The intruder did not accidentally get onto your property.


Signage must be posted, preferably on the perimeter fence, to state ownership and notify consequence(s) of failing to obey. Wording can be very simple & direct to be effective. “Private Property – Violators Will Be Prosecuted” Signage should be placed on along the entire perimeter at no more than 100 meter spacing between signs. The signs want to be weather-proof and visible. Replace faded signs. With proper signage intruders cannot claim to not know the property was owned. Perimeter signage should meet legal requirements of providing warning when intruders are charged for trespassing.

Clear Lines of Sight:

From a security point-of-view, all obstructions along the perimeter fence want to be removed or minimized for at least 10 meters inside and outside the fence line. These cleared areas reduce the possibility of an intruder crossing the fence line unnoticed. Sheds, bushes, trees and machinery want to be removed from these zones if possible. If not possible, then these areas need to be noted and proper alternative plans for dealing with these “dead” zones must be made. These areas will invite intruders to access your property as they cannot be observed or monitored.

Proper Lighting:

In a rural setting it is unlikely for the entire perimeter to have proper lighting. However, strategically placed solar powered LED garden lights could be helpful, especially, to mark corners and gates. As you get to the inner security layers, lighting becomes very important. Two useful types of lighting are direct lighting & back-lighting. Direct lighting can be motion sensor, controlled flood lighting that turns on when activated. These lights face out from the inner property and confront intruders or unannounced guests/visitors. You can see out but they cannot see in. Back-lighting can use any light source to create a wall of light that must be crossed. Thus, the intruder will be noticed in contrast to the bright background. The inner perimeter wants to be fully illuminated with no dark paths that lead to inner areas. Unless, you are using dark zones to channel intruders to areas that are protected by other means – IR lights and IR cameras, motion detectors, dogs, or deadend alleys.

Gates / Access Control Points:

To move from the perimeter to the inner layers of the property you will need to control movement of people, machinery, vehicles, livestock and intruders. Gates are the most common method of getting from one zone to the next. Usually, in security, the level of security increases as you get closer to the centre. Your most valuable items/people stay inside the most secure zone. Where a single cable or chain may be adequate to be a gate to a field, a reinforced steel gate may be more appropriate for accessing the residence zone of your ranch/farm/acreage.

Early Warning Devices:

Early warning devices include any device that is triggered/activated remotely by an intruder. This can be a solar powered LED light with a motion sensor. The motion sensor and the light do not have to be located in the same location. Any remote located motion sensor can be attached to a number of different devices to aid in early detection of intruders – auto-dialers, security alarms, sirens or devices to record evidence – game cameras, CCTV, video cameras.

Locks & Keys (& Their Control):

The old saying, “Locks only keep the honest out.” While, it may be true when contenting with career criminals or very desperate people. The fact still remains that locked gates, doors and windows buy you time. Time to acknowledge a threat is in your vicinity. Time to enact your security plan. Time to request assistance. Time to respond, not just to react. To this end, on a ranch, farm or rural acreage, purchasing high quality locks that are keyed-alike can help buy time. Quality locks can take more abuse before failing and are more difficult to by-pass with lock picks. Keyed-alike is the compromise between high security and convenience. With one or maybe two keys you can access all required areas on your property. The compromise is if one key is lost or stolen, the bad guys can access all areas, too. Keep keys secured when not in use. One set per authorized employee or family member. Do random key audits to ensure no keys have been lost or stolen. IF KEYS GO need the locksmith to change the tumblers in all the locks and new keys have to be issued. This can get expensive, but not as expensive as having criminals taking all your property or injuring any of your family, friends or employees. Key control can include a daily sign out/sign in logsheet.

CCTV / Video Surveillance

The sad fact is video surveillance is becoming more necessary for all citizens to deter criminal activity from happening on your property. Those with ranches, farms or large rural acreages it is just too difficult to be watching all places, all the time. Cameras may deter some criminals but not all. The use of quality cameras and recording devices hopefully will gather enough information to positively identify the bad guys and assist in their rapid capture. I would recommend a mix of high profile, easily observed cameras as a deterrent and a second layer of cameras that are not so easy to spot. A mix of video and still (game ) cameras would be a good idea. Cameras with capturing images in the dark would be worth the upgrade. Recent brazen daylight raids on rural properties do occur, but many low level criminals are generally cowards who slink in during the dark hours to remove high value items to fence for cash to purchase drugs.

Video drones. A new piece of technology to become available is the remote controlled aerial drone with live streaming video camera(s). Drones are available for you to keep an eye on your property from the ranch house – monitor the herd, patrol the fence line, inspect irrigation effectiveness. However, the bad guys have drones, too. The criminals are using drones to sneek in and look in the windows of homes and determine if anyone is home or not. If not, they take advantage of your absence to plunder. This is not being said to raise your fear level. This is to educate you on threats presented against you. Once a threat is identified, then defences can be devised. Obstacles like nets, clothes lines and trellis/lattice can help keep drones away or slow down their flight to aid in spotting them. Also, drones need to be controlled from somewhere. Keep an eye out for vehicles that are parked on the side of roads near ranches, farms or acreages. If they are there, too long. Take a picture of the vehicle &/or notify the Rural Crime Watch patrol to do a drive-by.

Inner Perimeter Fence

The Inner Perimeter Fence is the first tough layer of defence. In security applications this fence is usually a minimum of 8' tall with 3 strands of barb wire on top. High security facilities put a coil of razor wire on top of the barb wire. None of this is aesthetically pleasing. This fence wants to be tall, clear of foliage, well illuminated, with lockable gates. Signage on this fence will not hurt.....but, if they ignored the signs on the outer perimeter, they are probably up to no good. The purpose of the inner perimeter fence is to establish where people belong. Owners, family, friends and employees belong inside at the correct times. This is one more layer for criminals to defeat or by-pass. This helps establish intent for incidents that end up in court.

Designated Purpose Areas / Buildings (Compartmentalize & Isolate)

Similar to an inner perimeter fence, by having buildings or areas with designated purposes – branding, loading trucks, fixing equipment, parking equipment, refueling, grain/hay storage, irrigation, fertilizer storage, etc; it helps determine if the right people are in the right area at the right time. If need be, different locks & keys are used to secure these areas. If there is only fields and a general non-field area, it will be more difficult to suggest intent.

Doors, Locks & Windows

Like gates, doors want to be designed to keep the bad guys out. Steel doors with dead bolts are viewed as the minimum standard for exterior doors to buildings, garages and homes. Dead bolts want to be long enough to go into the door frame. Door frames want to be steel as well and securely fastened to the structure with long screws. Windows on doors want to be small. Large windows allow easier access to those who do not mind breaking glass to gain entry. Multiple dead bolts are not too much effort. Same with locking bars that reinforce doors at night or when not expecting any visitors.

In a high security structure, there are very few windows on the outer walls on the first or second story. Homes built in high crime parts of the world use a courtyard design. Walls that look into the courtyard have a lot of windows and balconies, but the outer side has very few until the third floor. Even then, these third floor outer windows are usually tall and narrow.

To retro-fit a traditional rancher style bungalow to increase the security level would be a major undertaking – in time, materials and money. The best advice is to ensure all windows are closed and latched/locked when not home. Placing dowels in the slide track of windows will prevent the latch/lock from being easily by-passed. But, anything made of glass is vulnerable to being broken.

An alternate strategy would be to lock all entries except one that looks forgotten. This one entry point would be well covered with video surveillance devices. To at least capture evidence of who committed the crime for later prosecution.

Policy, Procedure & Plans

Ranch policy, procedures & plans need to be established for a safe & secure operation. Like fire drills aid in the rapid evacuation of a building that has caught fire, security functions need planning, policy and procedures, too. The better planned and practiced the smoother the operation will run. Develop standard operating procedures.

Security Force

In the security world, all of the previous steps have been pro-active and make unlawful entry as difficult as possible. What happens if someone is willing to go through all the layers?? You need someone to respond. Contract security staff are not likely to be affordable to most ranching or farming operations. If your operation can afford the investment, a professional security team is likely the fastest response to threats that money can buy. If not, at least a few of your family &/or your employee base will need to take on security functions and response. Untrained personnel should avoid direct contact with criminal elements. Untrained persons should be aware of who does not belong, notify those on the ranch security team of the situation and contact law enforcement.

A well trained security force can be cross-trained to perform ranch/farm functions. They just need to be performing these function in or near their primary area of responsibility. Security first. Other duties second.

Communications & Network

Rural crime presents a unique environment to defend good folks from the criminal scum. Time & distance. Each ranch, farm or rural acreage is not that different from the castles of days-gone-by. A remote, isolated kingdom that has to be able to hold its own until the calvary can ride to the rescue. Unlike, those days, today we have access to communications tools that can get the message out quickly and to a wide audience, if needed.

As great as these tools are, they can fail. So, a collection of alternate communication tools needs to be considered. We have landline phones, cellphones, texting, email, social media and a variety of radio communication tools. To ensure a safe and secure rural area, any and all of these may be needed.

However, as important as communication tools are, having a network of fellow land-owners is probably even more important. The remoteness of each homestead means neighbours have to know who their neighbours are. And during times of distress, neighbours need to know they can count on their fellow neighbour for aid in dealing with the criminal element. More eye watching for suspicious vehicles and activity. If your neighbour is in town getting supplies or groceries and you notice a strange vehicle entering their yard, take note of the vehicle, license plate # and notify the Rural Crime Watch patrol. Take a picture of the vehicle. If it was nothing, oh well.

Working together is probably the most powerful weapon to combat crime in rural Alberta. 

Working together is the best defence against hostile forces, no matter if they are a gang of criminals or a terrorist group. Again here is the link:

Be safe out there!


No comments:

Post a Comment