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Security Guards as Spectators?

Make Sure Yours Don’t Miss a Play.

Deter. Detect. Delay. Respond. That’s how professionals think about addressing security threats.

Hiring private security officers is often part of the equation. At the most basic level, companies expect their deployed security guards to provide a deterrent. A criminal who has the choice between targeting company A, which has a guard sitting in the lobby, and company B, which does not, is going to choose company B. There’s value in that. However, at an hourly billable rate of $17.50, a full-time security guard costs the company over $150,000 per year. That’s a lot of money for just deterrence!

What about those other objectives – detect, delay, and respond?

The public assumes that security guards are there to protect them. Chuck Harold, Security Expert and Retired Police Officer, explains, “That’s not quite accurate. In California as in many other states, the primary job of a guard is to ‘observe and report.’ It is not about physical contact between the guard and suspected perpetrator. Guards are not police officers who are paid to put their life at risk. They are in place to recognize situations and conditions that indicate potential trouble, report on them quickly and thoroughly, and then wait for law enforcement to respond.”

At RAD, we call this phenomenon “Security Guards as Spectators.”

When the public expresses outrage over guards failing to stop crimes in action, their anger is misguided. Mr. Harold says, “That’s not the problem. The real issue is the poor job the security industry does at training guards to observe and report well.” Detecting suspicious behavior before bad things can happen is what most guards should be doing. Why aren’t they learning how?

There are a few reasons. First, guard companies don’t charge their customers enough to pay for specialized training that develops their officers’ observational skills. Ultimately, guard companies are in the business of making money, and employee training doesn’t fit within their operating budget unless customers are willing to pay quite a bit more for their services. Usually, they are not. Also, employee turnover is as high as 300% per year. Even with training, guards who only spend a few months on the job before they quit never get much practice observing and reporting on the full range of suspicious behaviors and situations that are often precursors to trouble. This failure has a cascading effect, as law enforcement’s response is only as timely and targeted as the information it receives.

We’ve talked about how RAD’s Autonomous Remote Services (ARS) solutions have proven deterrent value in past posts. For example, ROSA units deployed at construction sites and car dealerships have done a better job than human guards at eliminating theft, trespassing, vandalism, and loitering. When it comes to observing and reporting, can ARS also improve upon the human guard model?  You bet it can.

Technology is incredibly “observant,” detecting conditions a human might miss and then automatically responding with sounds and visual and sharing those observations with escalated levels of authority. For example, RAD’s AI-centric solutions can observe the presence of an unauthorized person entering a secure storage yard, or spot within seconds a vehicle entering a parking garage after hours. What’s more is that these devices can autonomously respond to situations that the device considers unusual or not normal based on time of day. The immediacy of this self-directed response acts as a deterrent in a way a security guard is not trained to do.

Intelligent technology can also aggregate and analyze data from multiple locations in a way that a team of human guards cannot. For example, an adult male who purchases a solo ticket and enters the gates of an amusement park an hour before closing might raise suspicions. Three such males, entering at different gates, should trigger a high alert. However, separate guards posted near each entrance might not perceive the threat of each incident in isolation. By contrast, technology “observing” all park gates within a unified ARS platform could detect a disturbing pattern and notify authorities immediately, allowing them to intercept the parties before a coordinated attack occurs.

Can ARS delay and respond? In coordination with human operators, it may offer superior outcomes over humans working alone. Robots can’t do much in terms of physically detaining suspects, nor would we want them to. However, by leveraging robotic and electronic systems to issue warnings autonomously and verbally communicate directly with would-be criminals while they are “in the act,” trained operators may remotely intervene and de-escalate situations without physical risk to themselves or others. As this occurs, ARS can simultaneously contact law enforcement, bringing officers to the scene sooner and with full knowledge of what has ensued. In this way, ARS may delay further incident and facilitate a more effective response.

As mentioned earlier, a full-time human guard costs upwards of $150,000 per year. A team of guards runs many times that. ARS delivers at a fraction of the price. As systems scale up, so do savings. In addition, the lower fee covers more than just deterrence and subpar “spectating.” ARS systems know what to look for, autonomously respond, record it with precision, and report it immediately. Furthermore, they take the initiative to resolve some situations on their own, moving beyond passive deterrence to engage with potential troublemakers and encourage them to think twice before proceeding with their plans.

In some ways, ARS may resemble “Security Guards as Spectators,” but not all spectators are created equal. For the price of “sitting in the bleachers,” our technology has a front-row seat, never takes its eye off the action, documents everything play-by-play, and is willing to shout out its displeasure when it doesn’t like what it sees. That’s the kind of spectator most security teams only dream about!