Guarding sector must come clean

May 2013 News

The number of crimes committed against South African business is constantly climbing – and a substantial portion of this problem can be attributed to poor standards in the security guarding segment of South Africa’s R50 billion private security industry.

Bernardo Luis, operations director at Guarding SA, has warned that both security companies and the companies that employ them need to get their houses in order if there is to be any chance of stemming the 380% rise in business crime that has occurred since 2004/5 (Source: Institute of Security Studies).

Bernardo Luis, operations director of Guarding SA is pictured right, taking the morning parade on site at an office park which is secured by the company’s services.
Bernardo Luis, operations director of Guarding SA is pictured right, taking the morning parade on site at an office park which is secured by the company’s services.

He said that problems ranging from guards falling asleep on the job to those working in cahoots with organised syndicates and turning a blind eye to goods that are brazenly transported out of companies’ warehouses contributed to the 7,5% increase in business crime recorded during the year ended April 2012. (Statistics released by the South African Police Services in September last year).

“It is extremely worrying if you look at how much crime is committed because people put too much trust in guards. Guarding is an extremely high-risk environment. Guards are constantly being bought. Threats come from both within and outside organisations.

As a result, he said, it was time to get back to basics. He pointed out that all companies as well as individual employees needed to be registered with the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRIA) as stipulated by the Private Security Regulation Act (2001) and subsequent amendments. The PSRIA website provides an online and extremely easy way to check credentials. It is a legal requirement for companies who employ outsourced security guards to ensure that they are registered with PSIRA, even if companies employ their own in house guards, both the company and the guards need to be registered with the organisation.

Luis advised that companies hiring guarding companies should also obtain references from other clients as well as investigate their operational and managerial systems. For starters, he said, companies should deal with guarding companies that both pre-screen and constantly monitor their staff.

He said one of the underlying difficulties was that, with a turnover of R50 billion, the South African private security industry was not only one of the largest but also one of the fastest growing security employers in the world. Again according to PSRIA, the number of private security officers and private security companies in South Africa has increased by 111,30% and 66,7% respectively.

The size and the ease with which new entrants could be trained and absorbed into the sector often results in extremely fleeting employee loyalty with guards simply moving from company to company should they be dismissed for misdemeanours. “That is why, for us, the crux is the screening process and maintaining that. Every single person who applies for a job at Guarding SA is polygraphed prior to being employed and also polygraphed periodically. We also infiltrate our own guards using undercover agents and offer a whistle blowing line. If we have two or three guys on site, you can rest assured that one is an undercover agent,” he said.

Despite the fact that investigations frequently uncovered major criminal operations in which security guards were often an integral part, companies that employed them either dismissed their guards without reporting them or simply moved a guard to a less risky site. “That employee should be investigated and charged. However, many companies in the guarding industry are afraid that they will risk their credibility by doing that,” he said, adding that many also failed to take action as they feared repercussions from terminating guards’ services.

Luis said that while there was a lot to be done within the guarding sector, security companies and their clients could begin to pull up their socks and participate in the 'cleansing process' that would remove the many factors that tainted a sector that had a crucial part of play in the fight against crime in South Africa.

For more information contact Bernardo Luis, Guarding SA, +27 (0)31 308 0600.

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