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Canada’s best kept secret

The public needs to recognize the value of the security industry, but movies like Mall Cop aren't helping.




October 13, 2009
By Glen Kitteringham

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The Calgary Herald ran a
five-day series on crime in the city this past winter. Interestingly,
there was no mention of the security industry whatsoever.  There was
the standard stuff about the police and various community organizations
but disappointingly, to the media and hence the so-called informed
public, it seems that the security industry simply doesn’t exist. On a
broader note, when the security industry is mentioned in the media, it
is usually as the home of incompetent police “wannabes” who work in the
uniformed guard industry.

The entertainment industry has released two movies in the last year
about the field of security and neither one are flattering to the
uniformed guard industry nor specifically to those security personnel
who work in the shopping mall environment. Paul Blart: Mall Cop and
Observe and Report are just two of the latest movies that make a
mockery of the uniformed guard industry and the security industry as a
whole.  I have to ask the question: why? Why is a multi-billion dollar
industry that touches just about every aspect of society practically
invisible to the public, except often as an object of ridicule and
derision? The government certainly knows about us.  Several provinces
across Canada have either recently re-written their private
investigators and security guard acts or are in the midst of re-writing
them. However, to the general public and to the non-security industry
media, we simply don’t exist as a viable and capable entity.

I have given this a great deal of thought and have come up with a few
reasons why this may be the case.  First, as an industry, we are quite
media adverse. Except for a few talking heads who claim to be security
experts and are on speed dial when the media wants a 30-second sound
bite about a bombing somewhere or some other major event, very few
security professionals are either allowed to talk to reporters or quite
frankly want to talk to them.  I only know of one company that allows
their security managers to talk to the media.  Most organizations
simply don’t want their security staff chatting with the media and I am
not surprised. I have personally seen the media get the facts wrong far
too often for anyone to trust that they can get the story right.  As a
result, just about every self-respecting security professional I know
walks the other way when they see the media coming. 

In addition, the media seems to not be interested when given the
opportunity to report on the security industry.  Case in point was the
2009 Tri-Lateral Security Conference held in Calgary, June 18-19.
Several media representatives were present for the entire day and all
that was reported by the Calgary Herald was that our keynote speaker,
Ralph Klein, was opposed to the provincial deficit and to the Liberal
party — hardly news at all.  Herald reporters, along with the rest of
the media, ignored the hundreds of attending and presenting security
practitioners from dozens of sectors. 

It is surprising that for a multi-billion dollar industry, with
thousands and thousands of highly trained and capable individuals who
work across the broad spectrum of most, if not all, the various sectors
of the economy as well as all the service providers, many of which are
significant institutions in their own right and who often trade on the
stock exchange, we are not more well known. 

Evan the academic world seems to think we don’t exist. A recently
published book called “Crime Prevention” written by Nick Tilley, a
well-known and respected criminology researcher in the U.K., barely
mentions the private security industry.  It seems we are invisible even
to those making a living researching crime prevention strategies. The
question must be asked:  Is everyone else blind to what we do, or, are
security professionals delusional about the impact we can have on
crime? I hold that eventually society will recognize our role in
protecting it. It may take many years but eventually it will happen.

Glen Kitteringham, M.Sc., CPP, F.SyI.

is Director, Security and Life Safety with 
Brookfield Properties in Calgary, Alta.


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