TrafficCourt

A Look at Security Guards

The Associated Press took a long, hard look at private security guards. It looks at the broad spectrum of building types, but does make some mention of shopping centers in the text. The piece draws similar conclusions to an article we ran in April looking at the low pay and lack of training many security guards receive.

The middle ground pay for security officers in 2006 was $23,620, according to a new Labor Department survey. The low pay reflects cutthroat competition among security firms, who submit the lowest possible bids to win contracts. Lowball contracts also mean lower profit margins and less money for training and background checks for guards.

The problems, though, are spread well beyond just the mall industry.

Some states require FBI fingerprint checks for every guard job applicant. Others let the industry police itself. These states don't regulate the industry: Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kentucky, Wyoming and Idaho. The city of Boise and many Idaho communities do regulate guards. Some states require background checks for company owners but not guards.

In states that keep such records, the AP found more than 96,000 of 1.3 million applicants, about 7.3 percent, were turned down _ mostly, state officials said, for having criminal histories.

The most important number, however, can't be found: individuals convicted of serious crimes who were hired in states without background checks or in states where they slipped through the system.

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