I have been involved in the private security and investigation business in New Mexico for the last eleven years. I have seen and heard a lot from new or old security customers about the actions of the security staff whom they employed. I employ a large number of guards myself and have may supervisors to keep tabs on them in the field. I have found there are several top reasons that security consumers become dissatisfied with their security company/ guard. I have noticed several top ways that security companies commonly deceive and rip off consumers. Hopefully, this will give consumers some insight into the industry and ways to keep a watchful eye on their guards.
The Top 10 Ways I see security companies being ripped off in the market:
- Guards not present, especially at night. This occurs when the client contracts for service and the guard company does not execute. Sometimes this occurs when a guard is actually scheduled but does not show up, some guards aren’t even scheduled but the client is knowingly billed for the work.
- Guards are asleep, drunk or not performing security on property. The client’s expectation is that the guard is working to prevent theft or make people safe when in reality the guard is in his own personal car, sleeping, talking on the phone, computer or watching a movie. I have heard about some guards being drunk or under the influence of drugs while on duty. This is a quality control and supervision problem but it is the security consumer who ultimately pays.
- Fraud. Security company lies about performance, vehicle patrol hits and sends false reports.
- Theft. Guards actually steal from customers. This is very common on construction jobs, apartment complexes (laundry room theft) or really anywhere.
- Unlicensed guards. This brings a host of problems to a customer. Licensing is required by the state together with an FBI background check. No license means the guard could be a felon.
- Security company has no insurance. This leaves the consumer without protection in case of litigation.
- Negligent security guard. This occurs when a guard does something wrong and the client is liable because they hired the guard or company.
- Violent security guard. This causes so many problems and is actually common. Security officers should be screened, hired under supervision and monitored. Unfortunately, many are not and they use improper force on innocent people. Guards often use OC spray (pepper spray), expandable batons, handcuffs and Taser devices when they have no justification under the law. The state requires state approved training but many guards carry these weapons with no licensing.
- Security company lies about its experience to get a contract. The client must check references.
- The security company or its officers, owners are untruthful. I can tell you first hand that mistakes happen in security. Problems arise on a weekly basis and the best way to handle these issues is to report them to the client. After all, they have the right to know what happens on their property. Many clients report that they don’t think that their security company is truthful with them about serious problems and they try to shift blame to others. One big problem for vehicle patrol clients is that the company reports more “hits’ for the property than they actually did. The industry term for this is “ghost hitting.”
Negligent hiring of security guards and defense of these guard’s actions has caused many security consumers lawsuits/ litigation this year. Historically, the security client is enjoined into lawsuits together with the security company when it is filed.
Security consumers have many choices for guard companies. Choose carefully and beware that cheaper prices can sometimes be a red flag. A guard company breaks even when they charge approximately $14 hr. for guard services. This is no profit, just expense (wage, tax, insurance, supervision, company overhead expenses for that guard). New Mexico sales tax is 7% of all gross sales. Consumers can expect to pay $17-20 hr. for guard services depending on the duties for guards. A dedicated car on the property is expensive and adds cost. Vehicle patrol is when a guard drives throughout the city patrolling client’s properties. It is reasonable to expect 4-6 “hits” per night for a rate of $500-800 per month. This is a more cost effective solution however it is an area where security companies lie to clients. If a company tells you that you can expect 7 or more hits per night, I would be suspicious.
Do the math. If you want a guard to spend at least 10-15 minutes on your property for a patrol hit then that is 40-75 minutes for an honest company. There is drive time between each property and you have to have several properties to break even, maybe as many as 10. The guard can only work a 10 hour shift so that is a maximum of 600 minutes, with no lunch. Look at the expenses:
Monthly Costs Associated With Vehicle Patrol
Wages/Tax/ Benefits for Guard ($10 hr.)- $2500
Car Cost/ Maintenance- $400
Vehicle Insurance $300
Gas (200 miles per night) $600
TOTAL $3800 per month to break even
I wrote this article to give security consumers some reference on the industry and some of the common problems. The best thing that a consumer can do, from my perspective, is to interview several companies or go strait for the best. Don’t make a decision based on the cheapest rates because that does not equate to value in security. Remember that the sales person or owner of your company may not be representative of the actual guard that will do your work. Request an interview of the guard who will work on your property, demand copies of his state license, training certificates and background check. Get copies of state license, insurance and bond.