Security guard patrol in a vehicle serves a limited, but useful purpose.
- Highly visible security vehicles drive-through services can be ideal
- Drive-through patrols are not good at catching criminals in the act
- Finding a quality security patrol service can be a challenge
Security Guard Patrol Services
I frequently get asked for a recommendation for a drive-through security patrol service for a commercial property. My first question is always,
What do you want to accomplish with the private security patrol service?”
Security Guard Patrol in a Marked Vehicle
Drive-through security patrols in a marked vehicle serve a limited, but useful purpose. By definition, the drive-through patrol service does not remain on-site and generally uses a vehicle to make the rounds.
This type of patrol is less expensive than a dedicated on-site security guard because of the limited time spent on the property. Highly visible, drive-through security services are ideal for the patrol of commercial properties after business hours or on private property not open to the public.
One purpose of this type of security guard patrol is to observe (or test) all accessible gates, doors, and windows and make sure they are secured, and to report the conditions found on the property to the business owner or the police.
Another purpose is to make sure no unauthorized persons are trespassing on private property. Some drive-through security services may also respond to alarm signals, but this requires a more specialized guard force.
The primary goal of a drive-through security patrol service is to deter property loss and discover vandalism after business hours. This presence is normally supported by signage that states the property will be patrolled by the “ABC Security Service.”
Drive-through security patrols are not good at catching criminals in the act. By design, drive-through security patrols should be highly visible and therefore should be incapable is sneaking up on a perpetrator.
The best patrol vehicles are high profile, and distinctive in appearance. The most visible security vehicles are well-marked and equipped with a light-bar on the roof and high-powered spotlights. This high visibility maximizes the deterrent effect as long as the security officer is patrolling competently and according to post orders.
Random drive-through security patrols are less effective on commercial properties while open to the public. This is because the drive-through security officer probably has 6-10 other commercial accounts to patrol each hour.
Random and infrequent patrol does not allow the security officer enough time to observe loiterers or differentiate between the customers, the residents, and the criminals. Many drive-through patrols consist of only a high-speed pass and offer little in the way of observation or scrutiny of suspicious activity.
Because of the nature of the drive-through patrol, customer contacts are infrequent and suspicious groups are not likely to be confronted. Drive-through is better than not doing anything, but understand the limitations of infrequent and non-confrontation security services.
Due to fear from prior litigation claims, signs supporting the random drive-through security patrol are not always used in retail shopping centers and rental housing settings for fear of misrepresenting to a consumer that security guards are always on-site.
Security Guard Patrol Post Orders
Any contract security services must have clearly defined and articulated “post orders”. Most post orders are written instructions for how the security officer is to patrol a site and should be incorporated as part of the contract.
These written instructions need to be detailed and reflect the expectations of the property manager and the responsibility of the security patrol service. Post orders are necessary for drive-through accounts because the same security officer will not always patrol the site and each property will have specific requirements.
Written post orders allow for consistency in patrol and reporting and set forth the obligations for fulfilling the service contract. Post instructions should specify if drive-through security officers are to get out of their vehicle to “shake” doors or walk behind buildings.
If you don’t require a specific security guard patrol task…it won’t occur.”
Well-written post order acts as a checklist for the security officer while on-site and helps them fill out their daily activity reports and logs.
Security Guard Patrol Reporting
It is the custom and practice of all contract security patrol industry to complete daily activity reports (DARs) and incident reports for each site they patrol. Despite this practice, it is important to require written DAR and incident reports as part of the contract for service. This is usually one of the items specified in the post orders.
As a rule of thumb, if you don’t receive a written report, assume the patrol did not occur and don’t pay for the service until you receive one. This practice will ensure that reports are written and submitted in a timely manner.
Detailed daily activity and incident reports are crucial to a property owner. It is a form of supervision and holds the security service accountable for patrolling the property as agreed. In addition to communicating what was observed in the parking lot, the reports provide important documentation in case of a lawsuit alleging inadequate security.
Daily activity reports are designed to report routine things like when and where the security officer was on your property and what they observed. DARs should be detailed and informative.
- Each entry should list the date, time, location, and activity.
- Don’t accept activity logs that merely state, “[10:00] PM or [11:00] PM – All Quiet”.
- A proper daily activity report of an apartment property might state, “9/29/99 -[10:06] PM – Completed patrol in the south parking lot, one light burned out over parking space #256 or “9/29/99 – [10:14] PM – Checked the mailroom, pool gate, laundry room, and restroom door locks. All were secure.”
- These reports notify the landlord to repair burned out lights or to resolve hazardous conditions. Daily activity reports should document the patrol of all roadways on a property even if no unusual activity is observed.
Incident reports are only written when something unusual happens that requires a more detailed account. Incident reports are not limited to crime. Incident reports should notify the client of an unlocked door, a large group loitering, a flooded parking lot, safety hazards, and of course all crimes or property damage.
All contacts with persons on a client’s property should be reported as well. Incident reports should be more detailed than DARs because they chronicle one specific event. Incident reports that say “see police report” are not acceptable.
Incident reports should note everything the security officer observed, what they did, and what they were doing at the time of the incident. They must contain the basics of reporting like who, what, where, when, why, and how.
Security Guard Patrol Supervision
One inherent flaw in contracting for drive-through security patrol service is the supervision of the officers. Unless someone is checking, the drive-through patrol may not occur or the service may be insufficient.
A common problem for some security patrol services is that they overbook, and assign too many accounts to their officers. It is impossible for patrol officers to properly inspect a site if they must make a high-speed pass to keep on schedule. It is important at the beginning of the contract to establish the quality and timing of the patrols and then follow up if you suspect that the service is inadequate.
Worse yet, is when security officers falsify reports indicating that they patrolled when they had not. To avoid these problems, security patrol officers need to know that they are being supervised in some manner.
This can be accomplished by a patrol supervisor but will usually involve additional costs. Other methods are to incorporate a mechanical or electrical check-in device. Common systems include logging in on strategically placed watchman clocks, dropping patrol slips through the mail slot (hopefully in view of a video camera) or punching in on a time clock.
On occupied commercial properties, the guard service should check-in or sign off on a log in the presence of a site employee.
Security Guard Patrol Selection Process
Finding a quality patrol service can be a challenge. It is easier in a smaller market because a company’s good reputation is important to its survival. In large metropolitan areas, a poor patrol service can survive longer and get away with substandard service. This is because there is so much security that serves work that lost accounts don’t have an immediate impact on their ability to stay in the marketplace. The other problem is the labor pool. In big cities, all security agencies draw from the same labor source. A poor quality officer can drift from agency to agency for years and end up patrolling your property.
The best way to locate a quality security patrol service is to get a referral from a satisfied customer. It is always best to get multiple proposals and don’t consider price alone as the deciding factor.
- Ask for references and check them
- Ask to see licenses, insurance papers, and samples of reports that will be used on your property
- Check with the state licensing board to see if any complaints have been filed against the company or if their patrol license is valid
- Ask to see a copy of the contract and study it or have your attorney review it. It is usually not a good idea to sign the security company contract if it contains language that attempts to limit their liability or shift insurance responsibility to you.
- Make sure that you are involved in drafting the detailed post orders and make sure that they are dated, signed, and incorporated into the contract
- If the post orders need to be modified, do it in writing. Finally, actively supervise the guard service and make sure you receive and read the reports.
Security Guard Patrol Record Retention
Security officer reports should be maintained at least for a period of two years. These reports are important for evaluating your security needs, identifying historical problems on-site, and for insurance purposes.
These reports are critical in defending premises liability lawsuits since they are proof of providing adequate security. Even reports showing no activity should be stored to show that the property has been reasonably safe. Records can be purged after this period except for reports containing important events.
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