In security there areAlligators three basic levels of deterrence. Deterrence levels are measured based on the cognitive assessment an adversary makes and their emotional experience when facing the security system he is about to attack.

Deterrence Level 1 is achieved in a security system that incorporates detection technology such as x-ray machines, metal detectors or explosive trace detection devices and that uses physical security measures such as fences, access control mechanisms and CCTVs. Against such a security configuration, the criminal or adversary will say to himself: “this target poses too many obstacles to go through. I should look for an easier target.”

But note that Level 1 provides a low deterrence factor indeed because it uses technological and automated systems as obstacles. The main idea behind a technology-based security system is that the more obstacles one integrates into the security system the less attractive the target becomes. However, each technological or physical obstacle can be learned and eventually exploited or overcome by the adversary. And if throughout the adversary’s learning process (intelligence gathering), he is neither approached nor questioned by anyone then it is a clear indication to him that he can continue to test the system until he finds the right hole in the fence. Technological and physical security obstacles also hinder law abiding citizens who must go through a security process that can be cumbersome and time consuming.

Deterrence Level 2 is achieved by a security system that uses security measures that are difficult to evaluate such as K-9 patrols or undercover agents. K-9 operations are hard for an adversary to assess because patrols are done at random schedules and because each dog has different capabilities and can be used for many purposes. Undercover agents are difficult to detect and therefore are harder to target or to avoid when engaging in hostile criminal activities against a target.  For a security system that uses these types of security measures, the adversary will say to himself: “I don’t understand the security system here. I can’t really figure out the patterns or the size of the security force. I should look for an easier target.

Level 2 has higher deterrence benefit than does Level 1. This is because unpredictability creates doubt in the mind of the adversary. This doubt in turn creates fear – most people tend to be afraid of what they can’t see, what they don’t know and what they can’t understand. Consider a person walking through a Florida swamp. This person is more afraid of the alligators in the swamp that he can’t see than the ones he can (and therefore is able to avoid). In a similar way, an adversary who cannot identify the security forces and the capabilities of the security system will find the target challenging and intimidating. On the other hand, law abiding citizens will not be bothered by security measures which are undercover, sporadic and are unintrusive.

Deterrence Level 3 is achieved in a security system that effectively and proactively uses security questioning. In this kind of a security system, the adversary, after being questioned, will say to himself: “I better leave this place because security knows me and they suspect my criminal intent. They now have my picture and information and they will wait for me should I return. They will probably share this information with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies…I better run and not come back!“”

Level 3 is the most deterring because it creates insecurity in the mind of the adversary. An adversary who is questioned and found to be suspicious by police or a security officer will find the experience intimidating and actively offensive/proactive. On the other hand, law abiding citizens who are being questioned as part of a security procedure should find security questioning to be an easy and benign experience and may even appreciate knowing that security is on the ball.y deterrence


  1. John Culwell on April 7, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Excellent; too many times organizations count on technology for their security, not understanding that people make the difference.

  2. Ben Goldstein on April 8, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Another well thought out and articulated article. It seems that a blend of all 3 levels of deterrence can be used seemlessly with a majority focus on level’s 2 and 3.

  3. David on April 11, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    The problem with Level 2 & 3 security systems is the cost factor. An ongoing cost to employ the personel and maintain their training whereas Level 1 is an initial outlay and then maintenance costs. But as can be seen via news footage of some CCTV systems of crimes in progress etc, cost factor still plays a major factor even in Level 1 by not maintaining the equipment. It would be good to see businesses and Government implement Level 2 & 3 arrangements to prevent any attack. But alas, I’m sure this will not happen till after the system fails.

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