Written by Edward Smith
One of the biggest issues facing security companies right now is finding qualified guard candidates.
Those in the security industry have seen a rise in demand, and as Fresno Mayor Lee Brand withdrew a half-cent sales tax proposal to provide more police, parks and fire services, some see the demand growing even more.
This comes as businesses have been looking for more armed guards rather than just patrols, according to Brandon Waters, president and owner of Fresno Advanced Security and Transport.
“The people out there doing bad things are going to take an armed guard more seriously than someone wearing a plain uniform with no weapon,” Waters said. “You don’t want your guys having to use anything, but that visual is very powerful.”
Becoming qualified to carry a firearm takes commitment, and getting people who can pass the qualifications is difficult in the Central Valley.
While in the Bay Area or Southern California, armed guards may be making $18-20 an hour, Brandon Waters, president and owner of FAST Fresno doesn’t see the market in the Central Valley supporting those wages. What this means is that a lot of the candidates that FAST might be looking for aren’t incentivized enough to get into the business.
“The industry wants armed guards, but it’s difficult to find people who do that,” said Lawrence Garcia, president and CEO of AmeriGuard Security.
Even before buying their weapon, applicants can expect to spend a good $400 just to start the process, and many companies require guards to purchase their own guns and ammunition.
On top of the cost, a lot of people trying to get into the industry have been arrested for driving under the influence. While they may be able to do walking patrols, it keeps candidates from even getting into vehicles.
“DUI, bad credit, it’s hard to get people to even hold a firearm,” Garcia said.
Companies want to do their due diligence in order to maintain their image, which is important in a business that requires respect in order to operate.
“The problem in the industry is untucked, ungroomed officers. Those are the people that give our industry a bad view,” said Garcia.
On top of DUIs and outward appearance, legislation in California has made marijuana legal, but candidates don’t understand that the federal qualifications still require a drug test free from pot in order to be able to carry a gun on patrol.
There are a variety of reasons that wages are being kept down in the industry. Both Waters and Garcia, see a lot of fly-by-night security companies coming into the business without being fully licensed or insured and hiring anyone qualified to handle a firearm. If an incident should occur with a guard, companies have insurance to back up things like property damage or liability claims.
“Chances are that nothing goes wrong, but until that opportunity shows itself — a fight, a gun involved, anything that causes litigation to come that way, that company is not going to be forthcoming with information,” said Garcia.
While California did recently add a psychological profile to be able to carry firearms on top of the background checks and Live Scan from the Department of Justice, Waters doesn’t think the requirements are tough enough.
“I’ve interviewed a lot of candidates who may be qualified, but I wouldn’t trust them around a gun,” Waters said.
By hiring people who only meet the minimum standards, wages are kept low and good people don’t see getting into the business as being worthwhile.
For business owners looking for added security there are resources available. State websites like breeze.ca.gov, run by the Department of Consumer Affairs, will break down which companies have licenses as well as history on individual guards.