Which Patrol Company?

Is your Patrol Service paying attention to your facility, or to managing their On-Site officers?

Like any other service providers, Patrol Companies are as varied in price and quality as any other business. But there are two major categories within the Patrol business. One is the Guard Company that offers Patrol, and the other is a Patrol-only Company. Guard Companies often offer Patrol services as a sideline business. But, due to the significantly higher profit ratios involved in Guard Services, the Guard business always takes precedence in this scenario. In addition, the company is built around the Guard model, and its organizational structure is such that On-Site services are the focus.

They offer Patrols for a variety of reasons. The most important of which is that in the Guard business everything is based on billable hours. The entire company runs in relation to how many hours are being billed, vs. how much you are having to pay to fill those hours. Which means that supervisory, administrative, and managerial personnel are the draining resources and non-income producing facets of the company, and are therefore under constant scrutiny by ownership. Ownership is unwilling to devote resources to this payroll since it brings in absolutely no money to the company. This presents a difficult situation for management.

On-Site officers require a significant level of supervision, due to the nature of the work and the fact that they are not highly paid self-motivated employees. This is why management and supervision are virtually the sole differences between one Guard service and another. They all draw from the same employee pool; it is only supervision that sets them apart. The most effective way to hide payroll and offer more supervision is to implement a Patrol service into the company. They can use the Patrol officer as a roving supervisory person to move from account to account and check on the company’s On-Site officers. The patrol contracts a company can sell will be used to supplement his salary and the vehicle costs. But his primary responsibility will always be to the much larger and more lucrative On-Site contracts he is there to support. When he arrives at a post and the officer is nowhere to be found, he must stay there until one can be found. When an officer doesn’t show up for shift, he goes to fill in until one can be dispatched. When there is a disciplinary issue to be handled, he must stop what he’s doing and go take care of that issue. Whenever any of these issues arises, he stops worrying about the Patrol contracts. They are secondary considerations compared to a $15,000.00 per month Guard account.

There are significant discussions within the industry as to the ethical considerations involved in offering this type of service. Unfortunately it is the most common type of Patrol service offered. The vast majority of Patrol providers in Dallas are currently offering this type of hybrid service, yet charging their clients as if it were a real Patrol Company. Many companies have started to try to convince their fellow colleagues and their clients that they aren’t taking advantage of clients because they are working to keep the Patrol and Guard divisions separate. Recently there has been a new twist on this business model. Alarm companies are now less frequently able to field their own response teams. And most alarm companies are moving to remote monitored call centers, so they are farming out the response aspect of their business to Patrol Companies. This presents the same pitfalls that the Guard diversion presents for a Patrol client.

The other type of Patrol service is a Patrol-only Company. These are true traditional Patrol Companies (they are often referred to as Dedicated Patrols, but that’s misleading since a Dedicated Patrol is often a Patrol officer in a vehicle but one who stays at only one account). Patrol-only Companies do not offer Guard services, and do not use their Patrol officers to supervise other employees, or fill in for emergencies at other types of accounts. There are actually very few of these companies in Dallas.

Within this group there are still differences to be found. In addition to the significant cost of doing business, and the high cost of things like insurance, the most expensive part of running a Patrol Company is still payroll. Fortunately the entire company is run with far fewer people than a Guard company, but the cost of the officers on the street is the most expensive part of running a good Patrol Company.

The easiest distinguishing factor between one Patrol Company and another is the quality of its officers. Most Patrol-only Companies still try to pay their Patrol officers like guards. They are paid a simple hourly wage. Often it is only a little more than On-Site officers are paid. The alternative is to hire officers who are financially committed to the satisfaction and continued custom of clients. Officers who are financially tied to their accounts take better care of them. But only the most dedicated, experienced, and confident employees are willing to make that mutual commitment to the company and to the clients. And only a few companies are willing to allow their officers to share in the benefits of signing and keeping more accounts.

The vehicles a Patrol Company puts on the street are the most visible face of the Company, and the image presented by the clients who hire them. Some Companies use individual personal vehicles with magnetic signs. Some Companies use company vehicles with Company markings. There is a natural tendency to think that a Company’s vehicles should look like Police Cars. But this is a difficult situation. Police Departments are actively hostile to Security Companies trying to pass themselves and their officers off as Police. In this case, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. There is an instant adversarial relationship built in to these types of presentation. The Police Departments do not appreciate the comparison, and have made themselves clear on the subject. Therefore it is much better to develop a professional image, clearly divergent from that of the Police, and cultivate a relationship with them that emphasizes your desire to work with them in cooperation, and not try to be them. The less a Company tries to look like the Police Department, and the more professional a Company’s officers present themselves, the more cooperation they can develop with the local officers.