Security guards are employed by a number of industries. However, the retail world is one of the largest and most active employers for both novice and experienced guards. And for good reason, too. While the overall crime rate throughout the United States is on the downswing, retail and commercial property burglary and vandalism remain a serious problem. Although modern security measures include an array of digital surveillance and detection devices, only security guards offer physical protection services.
As the security guard mantra goes, true security begins with protection from within the perimeter walls. This inward-focused protection mindset translates into a great need for professionally trained security guards and certified protection officers.
Retail Security Guards
If you’re interested in expanding your efficiency as a retail security guard, or are considering switching careers, the following guide offers in-depth concepts and actionable tips. While your state determines exact requirements and scope of practice, there are several universal tips and protocol recommendations.
Part 1 – Crime Prevention Maintenance
One of the most important responsibilities of being a retail security guard is ensuring the entire area is adequately protected. However, this is where most new guards fail to optimize their impact.
While retail stores generally have an established protocol for crime prevention, as a security guard, you play a direct role enforcing these standards. Unlike the managers and supervisors who crafted these requirements, you patrol throughout each segment.
Maintain a secure and safe environment for both people and property by keeping the following prevention strategies in mind:
- Take note of malfunctioning lights or areas that are dimly illuminated. This is important even after the store has closed.
- When checking doors, make sure you both push-and-pull each entrance. This makes sure that the door is fully secured. If it’s been tampered with since your last check, by pushing and pulling the handle, you’ll quickly identify an issue.
- Remove or request to have visual obstructions taken down. This is most commonly needed in retail inventory warehouses. Empty boxes and stacked products should be removed as quickly as possible. Visual obstructions offer ample opportunity for criminals to hide behind to ambush security personnel, employees or customers. Moreover, stacks of items can shield criminal activity from CCTV capturing.
Part 2 – Refining Opening and Closing Duties
Regardless of store type or location, opening and closing times are considered some of the highest-risk moments in the day. As a retail security guard, you must refine your approach to handling this daily function.
Retail stores and security companies often provide their own unique protocol when it comes to safely handling these procedures. While you must study and adhere to specified protocol, there are several fundamental tips designed to enhance your coverage and overall safety.
- Employee Presence – The first step in safeguarding opening and closing duties is having a complete and predetermined employee headcount. This is why maintaining a current and accurate employee schedule is paramount for security professionals. You should never be surprised by who is present during opening or closing duties.
- Employee Responsibilities – Along with understanding who will be present, it’s important to know their designated responsibilities. Specifically, confirm employee-specific knowledge of access control systems and security equipment operation.
- Employee Patterns – One of the most powerful tools any security guard can possess is their refined observation skills. Throughout your time in a retail environment, observe employee behavior patterns. What is their predictive roles and movement?
- Established Vulnerabilities – What are the known security vulnerabilities during opening and closing duties? Hopefully, this information has already been established by your employer. Even still, by observing the environment and employee movement, it’s possible to identify new or exaggerated vulnerabilities.
- Consistent Changes – Throughout your opening and closing duties, pay attention to never doing the same thing too many times. Criminals, both internal and external, look for security guard movement and action patterns. Just like you observe patterns among employees, criminals do the same for you. Therefore, never repeat the same behavior on a consistent basis. Your actions and protocol execution should consistently waver.
- Uniform Duties – In large retail centers, such as a shopping mall, multiple stores open and close at the same time. To provide both localized and widespread safety, commune with fellow security guards and security providers. Work to establish a standardized protocol all stores and security guards follow.
Part 3 – Securing Cash Movement
Throughout the past several years, the use of cash in retail environments has continued to become less common. As consumers move toward a plastic or digital-centric payment modality, security measures have lightened their coverage of cash movement.
This is one of the biggest mistakes any retailer, and security provider, can make. Simply because cash transactions aren’t as common as they once were, cash is still just as desirable for criminals.
When it comes to bolstering your cash security measures, there are multiple points worth noting. These include:
- Criminal Patterns – Generally, cash-centric robberies carry a more violent hue. Robberies are often carried out by armed thieves, which significantly increases the danger and threats for employees, consumers and security guards. When refining your cash security measures, always keep this truth in mind. Prevention and response tactics must take into account the potential threat of lethal weapons.
- Cash Office Location – Throughout your initial observation, pay attention to how employees enter and exit the cash office. Ideally, this room is located far from building and/or store entrances and exits. Cash offices shouldn’t be advertised, for example, a sign stating “Accounting” on its door. If possible, create visual obstacles so customers can’t see where the door actually is.
- Entrance Security – Cash office security should be some of the strongest in the entire store. Ensure the CCTV system has a clear view of both hallways entrance and the entire door. Throughout your security patrols, keep an eye out for boxes or other visual-blocking objects. Immediately move any visual obstacles you notice.
- Monitoring Movement – Never let cash to be transported from tills to office without at least two guards. If you see an employee walking alone, immediately notify fellow security guards and rush to their side. Observation and persistence when dealing with this situation is imperative to prevent internal theft and criminal activity.
Part 4 – Robbery Prevention Tips & Safety Strategies
For years, physicians and wellness experts have proclaimed the value of prevention. When it comes to the human body, prevention tactics can thwart the onset of serious diseases. As it so happens, the principles of security are strikingly similar.
Robbery prevention tactics are specially formulated tactics and security behaviors designed to explicitly reduce the risk of criminal activity. Although effective prevention measures require multi-department assistance, your role as a security guard is the first line of defense.
The following robbery prevention tactics are considered universally powerful, regardless of retailer or store layout.
- Solo Employees – The biggest mistake when it comes to crime prevention is allowing an employee to be left alone in or outside of the store. There’s power in groups, so throughout your patrol route, if you notice an employee alone, say in their immediate area. Moreover, discuss this observation with management to prevent future worker isolation.
- Emergency Communication – Familiarizing yourself with your store emergency communication system is essential for not only prevention, but reaction. Throughout your shift, speak with employees and other guards to ensure each team member is familiar with the location, purpose and response of an emergency communication system.
- Active Robbery Response – In the unfortunate event prevention tactics fail to thwart a robbery, never make any sudden or threatening movements. If possible, speak with employees to do exactly what the criminal says. During an active robbery, the worst mistake is to escalate the situation by trying to intervene. Remember, your role as a security guard is to provide a safe environment. However, sometimes this means remaining calm and focusing on memorizing details as they unravel.
- Activating Alarm System – During an active robbery, you’ll be tempted to immediately activate the hidden alarm system. While this instinct is appropriate, sometimes it’s necessary to wait until it’s safe to do so. For example, during an armed robbery, sounding the alarm or moving to turn it on can trigger anxiety within the robber, which may result in unplanned or uncharacteristic behavior. Remember, safety of employees and shoppers comes before anything else. Track your movements and weigh the potential outcome prior to reacting.
- Scene Preservation – Preserving the crime scene after the robber has left is the most important step following a crime, but only if everyone involved is safe and unharmed. Hopefully, the robber leaves without causing bodily injury. If so, instruct employees and shoppers to carefully remove themselves from the immediate area. Do not touch any surface or walk where the criminal stood. Your goal is to preserve the scene as best as possible, which includes surfaces the criminal may have touched.