The security week that was: 07/08/11 (Boom times for guard services)

A weekly surveillance of the news shaping your profession


Security guards aren't going away anytime soon. That's the gist of a UN report which noted that the number of private security officers worldwide is roughly double the number of sworn law enforcement officers. In my own little slice of America, I can tell you anecdotally that I have seen an increased use of professional security officers at the local banks and large retailers, but what the UN report points to is a greater trend toward outsourcing of former police functions to security officers.

A few weeks ago in this weekly column, I discussed the quality of security officers available today, as evidenced by the use of high-end officer services at a corporate headquarters I toured. Part of that trend I believe can be attributed to massive mergers in the guard services industry. As these companies have become larger and as the number of officers increases worldwide, the premier companies have had to really focus on high-quality training to differentiate their security officers from their competitors' officers. The type of security officer today is not the Barney Fife of yesteryear. Step into the "On Guard" world inside the SecurityInfoWatch forums and you'll see the level of interest that today's security officers take in their duties. Sure, we will always face the instances of the poorly trained and unmotivated amongst our industry's ranks, but I think the heightened competition in the marketplace is steadily driving a wedge between two parts of the guard services industry. There's a very visible line of division between the low-end, barely-a-guard type of guard, and the always-on-point, superbly trained guard.

But it's not always sunny in the guard services world. The UN report notes that one side effect of high growth in the security guard services world has been that regulatory processes for the industry have not kept up with the growth in officer numbers. The industry, if it is going to preserve what I see as a movement toward higher quality services, will need to self-regulate if the state cannot implement that process.

The UN report also calls us to question the often-assumed line of thought that as we implement more automated security devices -- intrusion and access control systems, motion detection and video analytics-enabled security cameras -- we would see a shrinking need for the living, breathing security guard. If anything, these automated systems are moving officers out of the monitor rooms and into public side of facilities and campus environments, and that, I think, is a good thing for the overall security presence of any corporation or agency.

Stakeholders, what stakeholders?
As one project forgets a key stakeholder, another organization reaches out to its key constituents

At our Secured Cities conference held this past May in Atlanta (our next one is in Baltimore), one of the key points of discussion was the importance of involving all stakeholders when developing a government-owned surveillance system. Apparently, the Delhi International Airport Limited didn't receive the memo. A report from The Pioneer newspaper in India notes that the airport's own police force wasn't involved in recent decisions to expand the airport-area surveillance system, despite the fact that the airport police was, in reality, the end-user of the video for forensic and response purposes. I'll let this little story out of India be a warning to any of you planning a security upgrade: Don't forget your constituents.

Speaking of stakeholders and airport security, the Transportation Security Administration is re-establishing the Aviation Security Advisory Committee. The committee will be comprised of members from the aviation, law enforcement and security industries. The committee was initially established following the terror attack to Pan Am 103 in 1989, but had since been disbanded. The goal of the committee is to provide planning advice and feedback to the TSA regarding security procedures.

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