By Morgan Montalvo
From apartment complexes and shopping centers to construction sites and gated communities, private security companies are increasing their presence statewide, News Radio 1200 WOAI's Morgan Montalvo reports as part of his 'In Focus' series of reports on the expanding role of law enforcement.
"The primary job of a security guard is to observe and report when necessary," David Amrollah, owner of Bexar County Protective Services tells News Radio 1200 WOAI.
Amrollah says security officer assignments fall into two broad categories: usually-armed, "high-risk" shifts at bars and other venues that primarily serve alcohol; or mostly unarmed "low-risk" jobs at locations such as retail centers, restaurants, hotels, apartment complexes, or office buildings.
Security officers are responsible for enforcing "house rules," whether asking belligerent patrons to leave a night club or reminding tenants about noise and parking rules.
"Trespassing issues are a big one," Amrollah says.
Under Texas law, security guards do not have the same arrest powers as police, but can make the equivalent of a "citizen's arrest" in very limited, usually felony-related situations.
Normally, they detain persons if they witness an offense requiring police, says Eddie Flynn, Bexar County Protective Service's chief and instructor.
Amrollah says security officers often are called upon to testify as witnesses in criminal trials.
Flynn says Texas authorizes three security officer categories: a non-commissioned Level Two officer who carries no firearm; a Level Three officer trained and certified to carry pepper spray, handcuffs, baton and firearms; and Level Four, the plain-clothes Personal Protection Officer assigned to celebrities or corporate executives.
"The customer has the right to say 'I want an armed guard' or an unarmed guard," says Amrollah. "As a company, we're required to follow their lead."
If they want nothing but a Level Three, that's their choice as well," he says.
A growing number of private security companies offer canine officers as a client choice.
In San Antonio's growth-oriented economy construction companies, says Amrollah, are some of the area's largest private security contracts.
"They are actually some of the biggest targets out there," he says. "Construction thefts are crazy."
Locally, security guards also are dealing with an increasing number of serious incidents at public venues.
"We've got a lot more violent crime going on on the North Side at the moment that you wouldn't know about, that you wouldn't think about," Amrollah says.
"We do see it, because that's what we're hired to prevent."
Frequently, he says, security officers' first aid and CPR training places them in the role of first responders until EMS arrives.
Post-9/11 changes among many law enforcement agencies have led to the adoption of mostly dark-blue uniforms, with a number of private security companies doing the same.
Amrollah says the State of Texas has issued guidelines to help the public differentiate between peace officers and security guards. State regulations require security officers to display the word "security" on their uniforms and on corporate vehicles,
A firm's Texas corporate license number also must appear on company-owned vehicles. Regulations also limit the colors of emergency lighting used by security companies.
"Our colors are amber and green, and police are red, white, and blue," Amrollah says.
Security officers cannot employ emergency lighting when driving on public streets or roads, Flynn adds.
Private security companies in Texas are governed by the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Licensing and Regulation, says DPS spokesman Tom Vinger.
These days, the job attracts many ex-military applicants accustomed to fast-changing, challenging situations. Many prefer to train as Level Four officers.
"They come out of a high-risk environment and they liked it," says Flynn. "They want to stay in that high-risk environment. so they train for the highest level and then they do things like diplomatic security, or celebrities, or people who have the means to hire personal bodyguards."