Three Levels of Deterrence in Security

In securityCCTV_Fence there are three levels of deterrence. Deterrence levels are measured based on the cognitive assessment and the emotional experience the adversary will undergo 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. In such a security configuration the criminal or adversary will say to himself: “this target has too many obstacles to go through. I should look for an easier target.”


Level 1 has low deterrence factors 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. And if throughout the adversary’s learning process (intelligence gathering), he is not approached and 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 on the law abiding citizens who must go through a security process that is very cumbersome, automatic and time consuming.


Deterrence level 2 is achieved in 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 to assess because patrols are done at random schedules and because each dog has different capabilities and it 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. In 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.


AlligatorsLevel 2 has higher deterrence factors than Level 1. This is because unpredictability creates doubt in the mind of the adversary. This doubt in turn creates fear because 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 able to avoid). In a similar way, an adversary that cannot identify the security forces and the capabilities of the security system will find the target extremely challenging and intimidating. On the other hand law abiding citizens will not be bothered by security measures which are undercover, sporadic and are not intrusive or time consuming.


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 when I come back. 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 panic in the mind of the adversary. An adversary that is questioned and found to be suspicious by a police or a security officer will find the experience extremely intimidating and offensive. On the other hand, all law abiding citizens who are being questioned as part of a security procedure will find security questioning to be an easy and an appreciated security experience to go through.

security 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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