Several times a week I’m asked to provide bid proposals for community vehicle patrols or dedicated guarding services. Regardless of whether the community currently has security and is seeking a fresh perspective for additional options or is considering patrols for the first time there are several factors to consider.
The most basic questions you should ask yourself as an HOA board is, “what are we seeking to accomplish with our courtesy patrols and how can that best be accomplished by using a patrol company?” Is it to deter outsiders from wandering your community? Is it to monitor and secure community amenities after-hours? Enforce parking regulations? All the above? Once the community has a clear picture of what they are looking for it is critical to communicate this to prospective security companies so they can work on programs that focus on your goals. Define Terms – Don’t assume verbiage is universal. Patrols can greatly vary in duration and detail.
A quality security bid requires a security assessment. Assessments require first-hand knowledge of the environment as well as historical factors. It is important to communicate what it is you are trying to accomplish with security and to be candid about any incidents that have taken place in the community. Most of the time you will meet with potential companies during the daytime, but most security services occur after sundown. Companies should request to spend time in the community after dark to see the full scope of their duties. A quality company shouldn’t accept the number of patrols you request outright, but rather place it in the larger context of your overall needs and recommend what they believe is best for your community. The security company is the subject matter expert and should be willing and able to demonstrate their expertise.
Quality over Quantity
The primary reasons to contract security services are to:
• deter criminal activity
• observe and report potential security and maintenance concerns
• enforce community parking policies
• and to lock and unlock community amenities.
Security vendors vary widely based on the tools and techniques they use to make outsiders feel unwelcome, residents more secure, detect potential problems, and report these issues in a timely manner. Using the proper vehicles, technology and top-notch personnel costs money, but will serve your community well when you know you can depend on the service they provide.
Some questions to ask may be:
• How can I be sure the guards are doing their jobs?
• What types of technology do you use to enhance and manage my security program?
• How will I get access to my reports?
• How responsive are you to incidents and concerns I may have?
Security personnel often enjoy a great deal of autonomy, especially when they drive patrol vehicles between various properties and cities. Most employees work alone and must be trusted to act with integrity, but management should also have the means to proactively monitor the quality of services being provided, rather than react only when receiving feedback from the HOA. You hired security to provide a service, you shouldn’t need to constantly monitor the quality of their work.
One company may offer twice as many patrols to your community than another, but there are always tradeoffs. For example, visits to your community may be shorter duration overall, walking or driving patrols may be done very quickly, making it harder to observe and record important details, etc. If a company tells you they can patrol your community in 5 minutes you have every reason to decide for yourself whether that seems reasonable. Drive the patrol in your own vehicle and simulate the duties yourself. Consider the time it takes to walk through the community, lock doors, write parking violation notices, etc. If you can’t do it in 5 minutes, neither can they, without cutting corners.
Placing a high value on quantity creates a race to the bottom where you are more likely to get less service for a lower price rather than a great bargain. Evaluate all that is being offered and don’t hesitate to ask how the features they boast and systems they rely on directly benefit you.
Finally, if your association has a security question or is considering a security policy revision and wants some ideas on how it can be enforced, will your security company be a resource or do you only hear from them when they need something? Access to knowledgeable management in a timely manner is important. If you are considering a change that may impact how your security company provides services, they should have a vested interest in providing input. If reaching someone with security operations experience in a timely manner proves challenging, there may be reason to question quality control.
A security company is a valuable resource to your community and needs to be available to answer your questions, address your concerns and provide you with peace of mind.