Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter
It's safe to say the security guard Jamaicans may have known of as children has evolved.
"It has moved to a very highly professional body and covering a broad range of things. It started from just being a watchman and now we have close bodyguards," said Rose Campbell, executive director of the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA).
Commander George Overton said private security was utilised by large corporate companies, the manufacturing plants and various other places.
"Quite quickly, it became unaffordable."
Overton said the 1980s brought the change from direct employment to independent-contractor systems.
"It became better for people to outsource than to do it themselves," he said.
Overton noted every company had its own methodology of training and recruitment until the establishment of the PSRA.
"They started to set standards like having licensing requirements, clean criminal records (for recruits), they started to create standards that the industry had to abide by."
The authority published basic training requirements for recruit training, and helped the process of developing other areas.
Audrey Brown, who joined the profession in 1995 as an unarmed guard with Guardsman Limited, noted that the requirements have gone through big changes.
"You must be able to read and write, have good customer service to deal with people wherever you are based," she said. "The classroom training is also far more intense."
Ralston Pessoa, group managing director of Atlas Protection Group of Companies, said there is definitely more competition. He was happy for the better regulation of the industry and noted customers were holding security companies more accountable for any losses they incur, even if the company is not directly in charge of areas like stocktaking.
"So we have to be doing much more internal investigation to try and avoid claims," he said.
Pessoa said the increase in electronic technology has reduced the need for manpower or man-guarded services. He also said the turnover ratio was not as high anymore, an indication that people are staying in the profession.
"We have to do a lot of background checks, which include more and more the social media."
Some might not consider this necessary but Pessoa said when potential employees' names are 'Googled', it is sometimes "frightening" what comes up.
He also noted that for employees seeking higher roles in the company, even polygraph tests were required.
ISSUES TO BE DEALT WITH
Overton suggested more acute inspectorship of security firms to ensure the levels of compliance. He acknowledged there were companies that invest in training, which constantly do refresher courses but others do not.
Campbell opined that the authority was more than coping.
"We will never complain about resources. You have to find ways; we multitask. We have a high level of training within the organisation itself," she said,
She felt most companies were compliant, sourcing tax compliance certificates. She admitted the unregistered companies were competing and said the fine for that offence was only J$10,000.
"I know for a fact that the ministry (of National Security) is addressing this but that's part of the drawback," she said.