Each month, we’ll be speaking to one of Aaron Engineering Group’s team members to profile them and share their story- what they do in their role for us and how they spend their time outside of work.
This month, we speak to Chris Gill, Aaron Rail’s Security Director, about how by employing surveillance techniques honed in a career as a police detective, he works with his team to foil cable thefts and enhance clients’ security.
From his background and early career, Chris looked to be a shoo-in as a Security Director at Stockport-based Aaron Rail. Even though he never aspired to actually join the police force, he was fascinated as a child by the notion of becoming a police dog handler; the concept never really left him, despite having several roles in the engineering industry after leaving school, and, in 1991, he took the plunge and joined the Greater Manchester Police Force.
His career progressed swiftly – if not necessarily smoothly, given the responsibilities of a uniformed foot patrol officer in some of the more difficult parts of the Manchester area, requiring high levels of diplomacy to keep the peace and apprehend wrongdoers. As he says, “I was on uniformed foot patrol duty in some quite lively areas, where you had to keep your wits about you, or you didn’t go home in one piece!”
Self-protection was another significant attribute when faced with the threat of physical violence, and having a martial arts qualification as a First Dan black belt in kickboxing was an advantage.
Chris’s supervisors were quickly aware that he had a high arrest rate, and he was asked to join a Divisional Organised Crime Disruption Unit. It was here that his specialised police experience and training really began. Compared with overt policing on the beat, it was a secret world, and he ran numerous undercover operations, incorporating various surveillance techniques and covert optical evidence gathering, employing video and stills photography.
In the late 1990s, Chris began training as a career detective, taking a course run by the College of Policing and earned the accreditation of becoming a PIP 2 Investigator. A PIP 2 Investigator employs a range of investigative approaches to gather material, placing the victim at the centre of all actions in order to investigate complex crimes. Chris discovered that he had found a flair for this kind of work, and he was invited to join the Force’s Major Incident Team.
It was sufficiently involving for him to remain in post with the Unit for over twenty years, during which time he continued to accumulate nationally recognised policing qualifications. These ranged from Tier 3 Suspect Interviewer to Data Telecommunications Investigations Officer, and he became increasingly well-versed in the various analytical roles within a major investigation room.
This case-building experience qualified him as a Force champion Advanced Disclosure officer – responsible for examining all unused material as it gets identified and ensuring it’s scheduled appropriately, that’s to say, the identified material gets properly recorded.
Having become immersed in the realm of homicide and investigation into Organised Crime Groups, Chris trained as a family liaison officer, working with victims’ families, and sometimes even with the offender’s family in the event of a homicide. Experience told, and he was promoted to family liaison co-ordinator, deployed within this role whilst still actively involved in incident investigation.
Chris’s current role as Aaron Rail’s Security Director evokes comparisons with his previous role as a detective. In terms of similarities, the skills he developed as a specialised Detective were easily transferred into the security world, where they’ve proved invaluable. It’s become second nature when conducting crime scene assessments, enabling him to assess and predict what type of precautions might have prevented a crime from taking place. When conducting risk assessments on rail compounds and deciding what security requirements should be implemented, this is an essential skill. In the wake of on-site incidents, Chris is adept at interviewing and statementing the people involved, whilst conducting a comprehensive investigation into the conditions surrounding the offence.
As he puts it, “having managed literally thousands of high- and low-level criminal investigations, you develop a second nature when conducting crime-scene assessments, and this enables you to assess what precautions would have prevented a crime taking place.”
This also benefits his staff and colleagues’ working practices. It’s essential to know what type of behaviour and language is ethical and permissible to use during an internal investigation so that any possible forthcoming police investigation won’t be affected. Evidence-gathering is invaluable, and it would be easy to inadvertently damage the evidence chain through insufficient knowledge of investigation processes.
As Security Director for Aaron Rail, Chris’s priorities include the provision of highly-trained security staff on all security assignments. “Knowledge is power,” he says, “so I ensure my staff receive continuous training so that they provide a service that stands out above and beyond our competitors.”
This is key to Chris assessing security requests from Aaron Rail’s clients and advising what security measures would be appropriate under the circumstances.
The main security challenges currently facing the rail industry – and specifically Chris’s security teams – include general trespass and theft of copper cable and equipment from station compounds and rail works. Consequent disruption to rail upgrades is very considerable, exacerbated by the increasing value of copper cable within the scrap metal industry, and the temptation to thieve, which that causes. Fortunately, Chris’s security teams have thwarted numerous thefts in this respect and have been integral to the arrest and arraignment of offenders.
Specifically, Chris’s experience in surveillance and covert detection, as well as interviewing high-profile suspects and working as a family liaison officer, has fine-tuned his facility to ‘read’ people via their responses and body language, and given him a sixth sense when a suspect is not telling the truth, or is stressed or emotionally upset.
As he says, “I assess a person’s response when I speak to them, and I can identify people who may be suffering with stress or emotionally within the workplace or within their home life.” When it comes to clamping down on cable theft and potential criminality through focussed detective work, Aaron Rail and the TRU West Alliance have the best possible operative at the helm in the shape of Chris Gill.