Kevin James stars as “Paul Blart” in Columbia Pictures’ comedy PAUL BLART: MALL COP.
TV and movies tell us security guards are bumbling fat idiots. They are the butt of a joke. Falling asleep with their feet up, they never pay attention to those security camera monitors while burglars steal gold or priceless paintings or stacks of cash. They’re easily distracted, easily gagged and tied up and — as in Die Hard or The Matrix or countless other action films — easily killed.
In real life, they work long, boring hours strolling the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, waving metal detectors at Mets games, printing sticky visitor passes at commercial buildings, checking IDs at concerts, standing for hours and hours on end at public landmarks, department stores, colleges, pharmacies.
Security Guards are everywhere.
Security guards really are on the front lines of public safety.
There are more than two times as many security guards than police officers in New York state and roughly 10 times as many guards as firefighters. While a lot of kids grow up itching to join the NYPD or the fire department, it’s hard to find someone who said they wanted to be a security guard when they grew up.
The guard who patrols a corporate plaza with an H&R Block and Chase Bank in Midtown wants to be a train conductor. The guard scanning IDs at a commercial office building near Grand Central dreams of a career as a stand-up comedian. The guard who works at a Duane Reade in the Upper West Side hopes to be a cop. The older guards who aren’t retired police officers, when asked what they think of a career in security, will shrug, as if to say, “It’s a job. It pays the rent.”
The security industry is growing in New York — and while being a guard is arguably a more respected profession than it was decades ago, it’s still an unglamorous and disrespected, and even dangerous, job where a negative confrontation often ends with the familiar insults “wannabe cop,” “rent-a-cop,” “flashlight cop.” People doing the gig prefer “security officer” — a term that industry leaders have used in an attempt to move away from the square-badged, bumbling fat “guard” stereotype.
In one sense, it’s working. There are definite signs that the industry is becoming more professionalized, but complaints by guards and civilians indicate the system still tolerates the abuse of low-level security workers by employers and also the physical abuse by rogue guards on ordinary citizens. City Limits dug into New York’s private security industry and found an environment where vulnerable workers are open to mistreatment, justice against abusive guards is hard to come by and there are serious gaps in oversight from government agencies that struggle to keep up with a growing industry that New Yorkers increasingly rely on to keep them safe.
The number of employed guards in New York state has risen in each of the last six years and in 2015, the 113,490 guards employed statewide was the the highest for any year since 1997, when data-keeping began. Despite this growth, City Limits found that the state agency tasked with overseeing the industry—which used to audit every security company every year to make sure employers and guards were following the rules—was forced by resource constraints to stop that practice and has not conducted a single audit in more than three years.
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City Limits–13 hours ago
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