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Ray Kelly: Developers Need To Think More About Counterterrorism, Not Cost Reduction

The real estate industry could be doing more to reduce the potential for terrorist attacks, according to the New York Police Department commissioner at the time of 9/11.

K2 Intelligence Vice Chairman Ray Kelly

Ray Kelly, now vice chairman of corporate investigations, regulatory compliance and cyber defense firm K2 Intelligence, said property owners are too often putting cost concerns before security. 

Kelly talked to Bisnow about how terrorist threats are evolving and what property managers and landlords should be doing in the wake of recent attacks in cities like Orlando, Manchester and London.

Bisnow: To what extent do real estate developers take counterterrorism into account when working on new buildings or schemes?

Kelly: I am surprised by how little developers look at issues of security before going forward with a scheme. Often they do it after the structure is up and in place. Developers and architects need to look at security from the beginning.

I think it is a question of reducing cost and keeping costs low. Security can impact the bottom line, and businesses are often reluctant to spend.

Bisnow: What can be done to better improve the physical realm around buildings and make them safer?

Kelly: You’ve seen attacks recently in Europe where vehicles have been used as a weapon, and there is a lot you can do with bollards or reinforced planters to prevent that happening, even around existing buildings that have been up for many years. Cameras have come down a lot in price. Everyone should have them. Some places have a lot, some don’t have any.

Companies can also do a lot in terms of training their staff to respond to emergencies and be aware of potential threats.

Bisnow: How do security procedures differ in different parts of the U.S.?

Kelly: In terms of controlling entry and exit from buildings, after the attacks on the World Trade Center, virtually every office building in New York City performs that function now. However, in other parts of the country that is less so. On the West Coast, in a lot of buildings you may have a security person in the lobby, but they are not actively monitoring who is coming in and out of the building.

It’s human nature, but in places that have not experienced attacks like we have in New York, people seem to think it can never happen to them.

Bisnow: How are law enforcement bodies and governments working to prevent further attacks?

Kelly: We know that the trade craft of terrorists have changed, so we have to change with it. We know that they are using encryption when communicating online. Chat rooms used to be an important area to monitor when I was at NYPD, but apps such as What’s App are encrypted. 

As well as staying abreast of technology there are also the old-fashioned methods like using informants. That has been something that has been of value in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Bisnow: How would you rate these efforts?

Kelly: On the whole they have been working. We have had incidents like the terrible shootings in Orlando and San Bernadino, but in general these incidents have been far less frequent than we thought they would be in the aftermath of 9/11.