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Contract security rolls into the transit industry.

The use of contract security can decrease liability and bolster the bottom line.

With the current economic uncertainty, corporate executives in commercial and public service organizations are looking for innovative and creative methods to increase profitability. The driving force, of course, is the balance sheet.

Two steps to corporate survival are to reduce expenses and risk exposure. Although most are public benefit organizations, mass transit systems face the same economic pressures as public corporations and privately owned businesses.

In any enterprise, two issues of mutual concern are protecting assets and revenues and preserving the corporate image. The mass transit industry is perhaps the most vivid example of the corporate struggle to survive in today's economy. Business leaders and government officials throughout the nation are looking toward privatization of services as one of the answers for economic survival.

There are many economic advantages to using contract security in the mass transit industry. One of the most important benefits, albeit indirect, is that using contract security, unlike proprietary security, permits the company to insulate itself from liability.

Reputable contract security companies carry their own liability insurance, as well as workers' compensation and other protections, which, in many states, are included in state licensing laws. The client's vulnerability to liability is reduced when security is provided by a reputable contractor. Another benefit may be a reduction in the company's liability insurance premiums.

Other advantages that are not directly economic can accrue through the use of contract security. For example, contract security has become a viable alternative to relying on public policing. Also, law enforcement personnel have an increasingly favorable attitude toward their counterparts in the private sector.

Some changes that have occurred over the past two decades to increase respect for private security include better education and more experience among private security managers, field supervisors, and security officers. Many universities and colleges now offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in industrial security. This engenders greater respect for private security not only by the police but also in the corporate environment.

When discussing corporate creativity and the strategy of cutting overhead costs to improve profitability, the mass transit industry is a model of creative planning.

The mass transit industry, especially in the United States, is looking closely at the success of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) as an example of the economic gain and the operational advantages that can be realized by using private contract security to fulfill corporate needs.

In a mass transit operation, the security of peripheral and ancillary facilities -- such as buildings, yards for rolling stock, and parking lots -- must be considered in addition to the security and protection of computerized systems, railroad and bus stations, and passengers.

Contract security officers can play a major role in the transit industry by creating a high perception of safety through their visibility to the public and employees of the transit authority. Astute transit system managers realize that freedom from fear on the transit system translates to increased ridership and revenues, which are precious commodities.

Faced with an economy that demands operational cost-effectiveness, transit system planners and transit authority managers must weigh the advantages of contract security in their efforts to improve patron perceptions of safety. User attitude toward personal safety usually drives ridership and, in the long term, affects revenues.

The choice of what contract security company to use is dictated by the number and degree of advantages offered by each company. Presently, there are no industry-wide performance standards for contract and proprietary security that encompass all functions in the industry. Therefore, standards of operation vary considerably throughout the country.

Thus, in the transit industry, top management must be dedicated to transit security and persistent in its efforts to assign qualified and open-minded managers to security management positions. These managers must weigh the security issues - in terms of cost-effectiveness and transit security requirements - in making decisions. Their decisions affect the bottom line and the quality of service provided.

Generally speaking, transit personnel lack security orientation, training, and experience. This is not to say that transit technicians and engineers should not have a close liaison with security personnel. However, transit personnel best serve their organizations in advisory roles or as resources from which security managers can seek advice and guidance in formulating security strategies.

In some cases, it may be a matter of integrating contract security with an existing transit police force. Therefore, the police manager must also play a significant role in the development and use of contract security on properties that had previously depended solely on proprietary security forces. It may be necessary to develop an entirely new security program to address this situation.

A contract security company should be able to draft and promulgate large-scale contingency and emergency plans for employees. Contract security managers should have the expertise and resources to train transit personnel in reacting properly to emergency situations on the system and hold drills for evacuation and fire control.

Managers should also publish emergency notification procedures on what passengers should do in an emergency. Additionally, periodic administrative support meetings should be held with transit system managers to ensure ongoing support for contract security and to measure the effectiveness of the overall security programs.

With these issues in mind, the transit environment offers a major opportunity for the use of contract security in a number of primary security functions. These include the following:

* station patrols

* revenue pickup

* parking areas

* yards and buildings

* monitoring security hardware

* miscellaneous security areas

Transit station security. A loss prevention approach to transit station security, with high visibility of security officers, increases the public's perception of security and provides a visible deterrent to crime. Disaster and emergency planning procedures for illnesses, suicides, fires, and natural disasters at stations must also be addressed by security managers with transit police or transit management.

Continual assessment of patrol techniques, practices, and procedures ensures that sufficient time is spent on platforms, at fare gates, and in patrolling stations. Deployment of security services should be based on statistical data from previous crime and incident reports. The security manager is responsible for establishing and maintaining the deployment of security assets in any proactive program.

These factors will ensure the positive impact of private security while providing the effective and cost-efficient security required by the contractor.

Statistical data also gives a historical view of the security that is provided. This is important in the event of litigation. Liability exposure is reduced when proper security action is taken in response to prior activity and current trends that threaten equipment, passengers, or transit employees.

Private security personnel usually adapt easily to assigned posts and can increase their productivity by assessing safety deficiencies and conducting risk assessment surveys. Through clearly defined risk assessment activities, security patrol personnel can identify potential liability risks that result from physical defects or damaged or worn areas of the property.

Risk analysis also improves maintenance and the physical conditions of facilities, thus increasing the public's perception of efficiency and safety on the transit system.

Revenue pickup and protection. Contract security can have a significant effect on improving the efficiency of revenue protection procedures. To identify ways that contract security can benefit the transit client, security management should first conduct a through study of revenue protection procedures, especially from rail stations and buses.

After reviewing the procedured, new security procedures should be developed that armed robbery, skimming internal fraud, and other illegal activities associated with revenue theft. Establishing specific protection procedures to guide security personnel involved in the entire revenue protection process in crucial.

Additional studies should focus on revenue counting procedures and surveilance activities.

Parking areas. Parking areas are among the top concerns for quality assurance and control with commuters and transit employees. Laxity in patrolling these areas is usually accompanied by an inordinate number of auto thefts and larcenies, which negatively effect the public's perception of safety in the transit environment.

Numerous studies of the transit industry indicate that when larceny and auto theft from transit parking lots is high, ridership and revenue decline. To develop a responsible patrol strategy and maximize security effectiveness, security experts must perform an in-depth analysis of crime in the area, survey the configuration of the parking areas, and determine what physical measures can be incorporated to harden the target.

Security staff and vehicles must be identifiable, and proper lighting must be available. An on-site analysis of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow should also be provided. This type of in-depth study furnishes transit officials and security managers with the documentation necessary to support staffing requests and physical security adaptations in conjunction with security procedures that are used in patrolling.

The focus of these efforts should be on loss prevention and crime prevention. Enforcing parking rules and protecting revenues are also major considerations in developing a security patrol program.

The high profile of uniformed security officers is one of the most effective deterrents to criminal conduct in parking lot protection. Adequate illumination is also an excellent deterrent. Proper site illumination provides patrol officers and CCTV cameras with sufficient light to operate efficiently and improves the ability of the patrol officer to identify crime.

The message must be conveyed to transit customers that their automobiles are protected and will be there at the end of the workday. Properly attired security officers who patrol parking areas assure commuters that their property is in good hands.

Security assignments to parking lots should be permanent, not rotated between personnel. This allows the security officer to become familiar with normal activity and recognize what may be out of the ordinary.

Behavior plays a major role in profiling activities that separate the commuter from activities the thief. Each behaves differently, and a security officer who is familiar with the norm has a good chance of spotting a potential thief.

Yards and buildings. Physical security studies of transit properties, along with a comprehensive threat analysis, reveal vulnerable areas. Uniquely designed security measures can then be adopted to protect these areas. These plans, while incorporating measures that eliminate or reduce vulnerability, should also provide for effective patrols by security personnel.

In the security planning, emergency and disaster recovery plans should be developed for all facilities. Private security management, in cooperation with transit management, can develop these programs and put them into operation.

Plans should encompass not only personnel and general safety issues but also tool cribs, fuel depots, and other areas where assets can be converted to private use or where vital computerized operations and hardware may be concentrated.

Most mass transit systems rely on computer programs to move rely on computer programs to move trains and maintain schedules. Protecting these vital areas should be of the utmost concern, both to transit management and to the security contractor.

Monitoring security hardware. The private sector has considerable experience in designing security monitoring equipment. Methods can be designed for meeting specific client requirements while providing a capacity for future growth of the system.

This ensures that the new hardware is state of the art, is consistent with the client's present needs, and can incorporate hardware for anticipated growth.

John Waters, retired assistant chief of police services for MARTA, thinks that competent security agencies can operate these consoles. "Operators should be assigned to the console who have proven to be totally qualified to monitor the cameras," he says. "The level of competency should not be reduced for any reason. Efficiency examinations should be given periodically to support the level of security desired. Contracting with an agency will allow personnel adjustments to satisfy the console operator profile."

When highly technical equipment is required to support a security program, the contract security firm should not provide the equipment or hardware for systems that will be established and maintained by the security contractor. The security contractor should be certain that the firm has no interest, financial or otherwise, in any security and safety system that is furnished. This helps avoid any conflict of interest.

Miscellaneous security areas. Most corporate security departments and transit police departments have limited investigative resources. Highly developed transit systems, however, routinely conduct employee background checks and surveillances and may provide undercover investigators and support personnel.

However, these services and procedures can also be supplied by a private security contractor. The opportunities for contract security are only limited by the capabilities of the local private security companies and the needs of the transit industry.

Many qualified private agencies exist throughout the United States. Transit management should select the agency that can best work with its current program or replace it altogether, if that is the intention.

The bidding process should screen out bidders that are incapable of providing the required services. A transit security program that is professionally interfaced with an existing program allows police to concentrate on law enforcement functions, leaving the more routine security issues to those who are trained in physical security asset protection.

No valid reasons exist why transit system law enforcement and the private security contractor cannot work effectively as partners, resulting in more efficient security service to the client.

In any discussion involving the interfacing or integration of contract security with an existing transit police function, MARTA serves as an example of how well these services can work together to achieve management goals.

Since 1985, MARTA has used contract security as a countermeasure to the ever-increasing threat of crime on the system. This has allowed MARTA to free its police department from general security duties, allowing the deployment of resources to the more immediate law enforcement needs.

Under the leadership of Chief Gerald D. Hotopp, during the three-year reorganization of the MARTA police department from 1986 to 1989 contract security services have been used in site protection, revenue protection, parking lot security, and facility security. In MARTA rail stations, highly visible security personnel has increased the public's perception of safety on the system and allowed the MARTA police department to assign its officers to the transit system's patrol activities.

The maintenance yards could be handled by highly skilled contract security officers to protect millions of dollars in assets and equipment, while even at headquarters, uniformed security personnel could provide security services to the corporate complex.

Transit police personnel and contract security personnel could work side by side, each concentrating on their responsibilities but both focusing on service excellence. Transit management is recognizing the value of privatizing the security function while maintaining a highly skilled police operation for public safety.

The consistently low crime rate on the MARTA system and the minimum loss of revenue and assets through theft and criminal activity is evidence of this effort's success. By establishing well-defined bid specifications and demanding quality performance standards for selecting contract security agencies, MARTA has improved its overall security service throughout the system with minimal impact on the budget.

The transit officials are representative of how public organizations and authorities can meet safety needs through creative planning and diversification. The overall benefit resides in the ability of transit officials to meet the safety and security demands of a large public transportation agency at minimum expense.

To achieve similar success elsewhere, both corporate and law enforcement officials must recognize the valuable contribution available from the private sector. MARTA continues to reap the rewards of creative management and set examples for other mass transit systems.

Another example of the benefits that can be derived from privatization of security services is the recent change that has taken place in the Miami Metro System. For almost two decades the system had been policed by the Metro-Dade police department. However, over the past two years policing of the system has been turned over to a private security contractor, which now provides all security services.

This has allowed the Metro-Dade police department to reassign many of its officers to other duties while improving security services to the commuting public. Again, this is an example of a creative and cost-effective approach to law enforcement through the effective integration of police and private security.

Many transit organizations are similar in their successful use of contract security in a public environment. These are not experimental programs. They are pragmatic and represent the creativity of modern managers who can break away from tradition in a society where the road to excellence is interrupted by the barriers of an unpredictable economy.

Crime, threats to the public's safety, and the well-being of patrons are growing concerns for the transit industry, especially in major metropolitan areas. With public revenue being stretched to meet budgetary demands, private security can take up the slack that has resulted from the reduced availability of public police services.

The way to the future is through the integration of public and private resources in an effort to meet society's challenges. In terms of government and public benefit organizations, such as mass transit, a significant fiscal advantage can be achieved through creative contracting of security services.

The new direction of the transit industry is through the logical division of services and a working partnership between the public and private sectors, both seeking the same level of excellence. Tomorrow's successes in corporate America will result from today's efforts to deal with the nation's fiscal problems. The old way is no longer appropriate. The new way still requires creativity and innovation.

Robert L. Arko, CPP, is president of Arko Executive Services Inc. in Atlanta. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:privatization of security contracts for the mass transit industry
Author:Arko, Robert L.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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