The Cost of Security

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Security is expensive, particularly bad security. The following is an example from friends who attended an outdoor event as vendors where they had paid a considerable fee to trade until 5pm each day.

On this occasion, at 4.30pm each afternoon, the hired security guards would start shepherding the patrons out the gates and quite forcibly advising the vendors that they had to stop trading by 5pm, including the food and beverage sites that were licensed until much later.

The cost to the vendors was considerable. There was the lost sales for the last half hour of each day, as well as the lost sales to the other vendors that traditionally happened informally in the hour or so after the patrons left. The food and beverage vendors lost hours of trading.

In addition, there was the attitude of the guards, which was reported as being rude and arrogant towards both patrons and vendors – hardly the image the organisers or vendors wanted to portray.

The vendors apparently made their views about the guards known to the organisers and overheard some of the public commenting on the somewhat forceful manner of the security staff.

It is possible, if not probable, that the majority of the guards were engaged until 5pm and that neither the organisers nor the provider wanted the guards on site for a minute longer. If this was the case, then the way the security contract was scoped, costed and implemented may have been economic in the short term but expensive in the longer term.

The manner in which guards were employed cost the vendors real money and damaged their opinion of the event and the organisers. It may cost the organisers in the long term as vendors consider whether the event is worthwhile next year, particularly with the aggressive security presence at what should be a family-friendly and welcoming experience.

Elements that can affect the ‘value’ of security staff are attire and attitude. The attire of the security staff is important as it must reflect the image of the event. In an open, family-friendly activity, having security staff dressed in quasi-military uniforms can detract from the whole visitor experience. Some years ago at a world-famous circus, the guards wore military-style trousers and boots and stomped around the venue in a manner that might be compared to Stormtroopers. Their presence detracted from the experience and patrons were seen watching the security staff and even moving their children out of the way. The client can specify how the security staff will be dressed to support the image to be portrayed.

Attitude is a matter of selection and training of the staff, over which the venue has little control. What the venue can control is an agreement that security staff be personable, friendly and civil. The client should also be willing to review the staff provided and to request/insist any that do not meet the requirement be replaced. At another outdoor, family event the guards wore black, infantry-like uniforms complete with webbing belts and projected an aggressive attitude that was a magnet for the more unruly youths and which resulted in incidents that may have been avoided with a more appropriate attire and attitude.

The immediate cost to demanding an appropriate security presence will be additional effort with the contract and possibly an addition to the hourly fee. The long-term return on investment is in happy patrons, happy vendors and a good reputation, leading to a desire to support future events. While security guards can be seen as an unwanted expense, poorly planned and provided security is more expensive.

Don Williams CPP RSecP ASecM can be contacted at donwilliams@dswconsulting.com.au