At the California Alarm Association's annual winter convention, held Dec. 9-11, 2010, in San Francisco, Jon Sargent was named the recipient of the CAA George A. Weinstock Award. The award recognizes a lifetime of achievement in the electronic security industry.
Sargent, a former two-term president of the CAA, serves as the industry liaison for ADT Security Services and works closely with SIAC, the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, on municipal and law enforcement relationships. He began his career in security in 1972, being paid $1.85 an hour to work security for a George Harrison concert and later for other special event security needs.
"I thought this was great," Sargent said of his early days in security. "I was getting paid to go to rock concerts like Elton John, Eric Clapton, Tower of Power, and the Grateful Dead."
He moved rapidly from special event guard services to working a security contract with the Federal Protective Service securing a federal building. He went to work then for ABC Security in Oakland, but soon transitioned into the electronic security industry working alarm monitoring at ABC Alarm central station. "I became their first central station manager," he said. "It was really tough working 12 hour shifts six days a week, and that's how I got into the alarm business."
The central station for ABC Alarm eventually was sold to Motion Detection Systems (MDS) out of Berkeley, and after transitioning those accounts, Sargent moved back to ABC Security to manage guard operations that included the Oakland Airport. In 1981, he went back to MDS' central station, and around this time he was becoming more and more involved with what was then the Bay Area Alarm Association and the Western Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, which represented the western states. It was at this time in the early 1980s that he worked on his first alarm ordinance with the Alameda County Sheriff's office. "I found it fascinating to go through the process of putting plans together on how to deal with false alarms."
Not long after in 1984, he moved over to work with Roger Westphal's company Bay Alarm, having met Westphal from working on the Alameda County ordinance. A year later, Sargent transitioned back to MDS to help the firm in its sale of its accounts and central station to National Guardian, a move that put Sargent as part of a national-level company. Part of that sale also involved Day & Night Security, as well as Magnascope, which all had been bought by National Guardian around the same time. National Guardian also purchased other local companies, including long-existing companies Pacific Fire Extinguisher and American Burglar Alarm.
"Those were the companies that sparked my interest in the history of burglar alarms and antique security alarms, because they were the oldest companies around here," Sargent said. "We were still monitoring systems that had been originally installed in the 1920s."
Around 1996, National Guardian was sold to Ameritech, a regional phone company developed from the split up of AT&T in 1984. Ameritech had just acquired Jim Covert's firm, SecurityLink. Under Ameritech, National Guardian became part of SecurityLink by Ameritech.
"It turned out to be a great thing in my career moving forward because Ameritech was investing heavily. They built a state-of-the-art monitoring center in Bradenton, Fla. I really started thinking about my future and saw the alarm industry as having become a career."
He found himself dealing more and more with false alarm reduction and customer retention issues at the time for SecurityLink's western operations. Then Jim Covert (now on Protection One's board of directors) bought SecurityLink from Ameritech to make it part of his own company Cambridge Protection. Cambridge Protection then sold to Tyco/ADT in 2001. "That was the seventh acquisition for me," Sargent said. "I have been sold with a customer base seven times."