A Profile of Excellence: CAA Weinstock Award Winner Jon Sargent

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."

Alongside his work as a sales manager at ADT, he started working with the CARE program, which was a precursor to the Security Industry Alarm Coalition. Bill Moody (a retired ADT vice president who worked with CARE and then SIAC) and Larry Dischert of (ADT) convinced the leadership of ADT to have Jon move into a role as an industry liaison. "Now I don't sell alarms, and I don't install, but I do look out for issues in the industry, for ADT and for SIAC."

As part of current his industry liaison work with ADT and SIAC, Sargent also serves on the advisory committee of the California Department of Consumer Affairs in its Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) Division. The BSIS handles licensing for California alarm companies, their employees, as well as security guards, private investigators and repossession agents. Sargent's efforts seem to be working.

Sargent, a member of the California Peace Officers Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, says he feels like the relationship between law enforcement and the alarm industry is much better today than it once was.

"We have to look at the cities that seem to be getting hit the hardest, the ones that have lost funding and tax resources," said Sargent of his current work, "and we have to let them know that we have some methods and procedures that they can put in place so that alarms don't become such a big issue for them. We also have to recognize the issues that law enforcement face. The number one issue for law enforcement is terrorism. The second is violent crime, and next to that are drugs and gangs. Alarms are this little tiny thing way over here. It's not the big deal that people think it is. [Alarm response] is manageable and cost effective when you do it right, and now in 2010, from SIAC, we can show this in a proven track record. Some cities have managed to cut false alarms in half, and some even up to 80 percent. At the same time they have provided cost recovery either through the alarm permit or false alarm fees that have helped manage the program."