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When the layman thinks of security, a few common elements spring to mind. Most often, you’ll get security cameras, security doors including vaults, and, of course, guards.

Guards are among the most visible and well-known aspects of a security system. They provide mobile and active monitoring and a potentially armed criminal deterrent. To the layman, a guard—especially when armed—represents the most effective part of any security system.

Unfortunately, guards may, in reality, represent more of a liability for a business owner, as Chris Eggers of CCSS explains in Chapter 12 of his book Securing Cannabis: A Comprehensive Guide To Increase Security, Reduce Costs, Reduce Liability, and Avoid Landmines. The chapter lays out that:

  1. Most offenders operating in cannabis green zones are absolutely undeterred by security guards.
  2. The guard services industry is struggling generally.
  3. There is a qualified guard shortage.
  4. All too often, there are large gaps between realistic expectations about guard pay rates versus service capabilities.
  5. Oversight and training remain as important as ever.

This all leads to potentially disastrous consequences for LCOs, as even armed guards can represent huge security risks if their presence does not deter criminals. These guards can become victims of violent crime themselves, and an armed altercation can lead to bystanders or customers being harmed, costly investigations, and highly damaging lawsuits.

Eggers describes the guard industry as being greatly diminished after the tumultuous COVID years, with many highly trained guards retiring or shifting to alternative industries. Combine this lack of quality manpower with the massive economic and legal pressures put on LCOs by the industry’s status quo, and you get a potentially disastrous situation if you don’t set realistic expectations on what guards should and should not be used for.

The first set of expectations that need to be aligned is what to expect from different pay rates. Guards who receive limited compensation may face challenges in carrying out responsibilities, which means if you’re paying less than $150 an hour, you should limit the level of risk they face. High-end private security comes with better security guard training, education, and investment into their craft, but they often charge $150+ hourly rates.

The bottom line is: you get what you pay for. If an LCO wants to pay the bare minimum to check a box on their business license form, they can’t expect the personnel they hire to put their lives on the line for the business or be especially effective at deterring criminals.

When it comes to armed vs. unarmed guards, many LCOs believe that an armed guard would be a more effective deterrent and crime prevention tool. The sad reality is that the standards to qualify for becoming an armed guard are not especially high, and when presented with actual data, most LCOs will choose to go with the less risky unarmed guard option.

Incorporating technological solutions can act as a force multiplier for your security guards, allowing dynamic security monitoring services without putting bodies at risk. Using drones as a security tool provides a cost-effective method of monitoring an area and providing live information to police, allowing a single trained pilot to perform the job function of multiple security personnel.

The chapter ends with a comprehensive checklist of the use cases, limitations, options, expectations vs. pay rates, and other factors involved with hiring a guard services vendor. To gain access to this checklist, as well as every other piece of information you need to create an effective and compliant security system, we recommend checking out the full book. Securing Cannabis: A Comprehensive Guide To Increase Security, Reduce Costs, Reduce Liability, and Avoid Landmines is now available here!