Danger lurks as private security officers patrol Tampa Bay areas

The Tampa Bay Times
By Jessica Vander Velde, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Sunday, December 16, 2012

TAMPA — Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Shuck walks through the apartment complex in a bulletproof vest, a gun holstered on his belt.

He has a radio, a badge and a mission at the moment. Some residents are causing trouble by inviting gang members to their apartment. So the officer strides through the steady rain and approaches a woman sitting outside.

Shuck is not law enforcement, though with his weapon and uniform that’s not always obvious. He is a private security officer with Critical Intervention Services, a Largo-based company that operates in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

In Florida, there are 27,910 people like him — licensed armed security officers.

They patrol dangerous areas as hired security. In many ways, they function like cops, but without crossing legal barriers.

Last month, one of the company’s Hillsborough officers died in a fatal shooting. Michael Valentin, 38, had just started in October. It was the second death in less than two years for a company that had escaped the worst for nearly 20 years.

To CIS Capt. Shaun Fogarty, who has worked with the company for almost seven years, the shooting was a sobering reminder of what officers like him face every night.

“We work in inherently dangerous areas,” he said.

• • •

Valentin was shot, authorities say, by a 16-year-old who wanted the officer’s gun.

In May 2011, officer Mathew Little was ambushed by a 20-year-old who made it known he did not like law enforcement or private security, St. Petersburg Police say.

CIS founder and director KC Poulin spoke with Valentin’s widow. Fellow officers attended his funeral.

But Poulin does not think any procedural changes could have prevented the deaths. He does not plan to make any changes.

“They’re armed. They’re trained. They wear bulletproof vests,” he said. “You can’t manage all risks.”

CIS is often hired by apartment complex owners looking to improve their property. The security company’s job is to gain control, then maintain it. They call it “anchoring.” The company charges up to $30 an hour and requires the complex to use them every night.

CIS’s strategy: Befriend area kids first, then their parents. Talk to residents. Get them to be the eyes and ears. Trouble-makers get eviction notices.

While local cops get hundreds of hours of training, CIS’s officers still do more than the state-mandated 68 hours.

CIS officers are trained both in the classroom and in the field. They are tested on a protocol handbook more than an inch thick. Each year, officers get money to attend security training classes, Poulin says.

Because the CIS officers’ focus is on proactive community-building, they know, for example, who lives in Building 2. They play basketball with kids on the complex’s court. Poulin says they try to intercept children in tough situations and help them.

“But there is such a thing as evil,” he said.

• • •

It’s 7 p.m., dark and rainy as Capt. Fogarty drives through the University Community Area and Temple Terrace in his marked silver car, a Ford Interceptor.

Dispatch calls go through his radio. Incidents pop up on a laptop mounted to his dashboard.

He wears a crisp, black uniform with a badge and name plate. The foot officers in the area wear “battle dress uniforms.”

“It looks aggressive,” Fogarty says. “It acts as a deterrent, projects power and authority.”

The company made national news in the early 1990s when Poulin started putting officers in the University Community Area. Such intense security was a new idea, and it was lauded as a way to reduce neighborhood crime. Other companies followed.

CIS writes detailed reports on each incident. They pass tips to law enforcement. The security officers have the power to enforce lease agreements and can help get tenants evicted.

They are even allowed to detain suspects in the case of “forcible felonies,” such as a robbery. CIS security officers carry guns, batons and handcuffs.

Over the past year, they responded to 749 violent acts and were involved in 737 incidents that ended with arrests, CIS reports. They recorded 1,270 trespassing incidents and fielded 12,404 calls to their dispatch center.

Local law enforcement say they have good relationships with CIS. The officers are like extra-helpful citizens, passing along information and keeping an eye out for people with outstanding warrants, several agencies said.

CIS officers like to think of themselves as the people who “fill the gap” in the law enforcement world. They have more time to be proactive. Sometimes they are the first to the scene.

After Valentin was shot to death on Nov. 21 at the Grande Oaks Apartments in East Tampa, CIS hosted a community event at the complex.

The company brought games, a football, tug-of-war and water balloons. They offered hot dogs and lemonade.

“We want the community to know we’re not going anywhere” Poulin said.

Bring in the Professionals

Frost & Sullivan
By M. Valenti

Electrical utilities have been a prime target for terrorists over the years. For example, during their heyday in the 1980s, the Sendero Luminoso terrorists in Peru sabotaged power stations and networks to cause blackouts as a show of strength, before Peruvian security forces broke them up a decade later. Disrupting the U.S. power grid would also be a goal of terrorists, and at least one major utility has sought to support its anti-terrorist tactical operations by hiring professionals. On January 30, TECO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Florida’s Tampa Electric, announced that it had engaged Critical Intervention Services, Inc., of Clearwater, FL, to provide its Homeland Security Anti-Terrorism Officers – ATOs – to protect its power plants in Tampa Bay.

CIS provides a range of protection and investigative services to businesses, governments and individuals inside Florida and throughout the world. Since 1992, CIS has developed a reputation as a pioneer in developing and incorporating innovative and effective solutions to security and intelligence related problems. “Although our services are used in a variety of environments, our specialization is developing integrated programs to mitigate violence-related risks associated with urban crime, terrorism, and workplace aggression,” explained Craig S. Gundry, Vice President of Special Projects at CIS. “The success of our unique approaches to contemporary security issues has received worldwide recognition from local and national news media outlets, and academic think tanks.”

Fostering Excellence

Gundry’s department is responsible for CIS “Anti-Terrorist Officer doctrine and training.” The ATO program was developed in response to the domestic need for private security personnel with specialized anti-terrorism capabilities. Unfortunately, very few security officers outside of the government community have the training or experience to effectively prevent and respond to threats associated with terrorism and organized violence,” noted Gundry. To address this vital issue, CIS selected and trained a number of experienced ex-military personnel in anti-terrorism tactics and security procedures and developed an infrastructure to support ATO operations. Some examples of this support infrastructure include the procurement of specialized equipment and weaponry, a dedicated unit for intelligence analysis and suspicious activity investigation, and planning support through its security consulting division.

The executive opined that the greatest challenge CIS had to meet when developing its ATO program was personnel selection. “Our HR department screened over 700 applications within 45 days to arrive at the 40 personnel we trained in our initial deployment group. Keep in mind that screening includes a series of interviews by ATO command staff, background investigations, psychological screening, IQ testing, drug urinalysis testing, and field training evaluation prior to final acceptance as candidates into the program,” stressed Gundry. “Our human resources staff and command personnel did an incredible job in order to meet our personnel quota prior to the first training cycle.”

Fitting In

Probably the next largest challenge in CIS’ initial deployment with TECO Energy was integrating the ATO operation while minimizing possible “shock” to the employees. “There was a lot of concern about how employees would react to the presence of new security personnel in military-type uniforms with military-type weapons and equipment. The transition actually went very smooth and employees adapted very quickly without any problems,” remarked Gundry, who added, “Although I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a `challenge’, there was also a significant amount of work that went into logistical preparations, operational planning, coordination with local law enforcement and government agencies, procuring necessary licensing waivers for special weapons, etc. This doesn’t even include all of the work that went into development of the ATO training program, operational doctrine, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which serve as the basis for how our ATOs function in the field.”

Battlefield Grads

All of the CIS ATOs are required to have a military background in addition to a number of other qualifications. Many learned those lessons in the toughest classrooms of the world, as combat veterans of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. Others possess unique and valuable training and/or experience in special operations, military police, force protection, maritime operations, or intelligence gathering. Once they are accepted for the ATO program, CIS puts the candidates through 116 hours of state-mandated security training and instruction to qualify as basic CIS officers. They then begin actual ATO training, starting with 48 hours of classroom instruction and independent study in a wide range of anti-terrorism and security related topics. A full day of hands-on search training, and four days of weapons instruction and field tactical training follows. Finally, the ATO candidates must pass a week of HAZMAT Level III training to prepare these individuals to support tactical operations during biological and chemical incidents.

Some of the topics covered during the training include characteristics of modern terrorism, bomb search and recognition, operations security and counterintelligence, entry point screening, performance based physical security, mail screening, use of force/rules of engagement, facility defense tactics, and response to various types of terrorist attack scenarios (bombs, chemical & biological attacks, etc). “A considerable amount of time is spent exploring the methods used by contemporary terrorists in actual attacks so that ATOs can cultivate intuitive awareness and a deeper understanding of how attacks can be prevented. The training also includes instruction on our proprietary ATO operating procedures and support systems, such as SATAS (Suspicious Activity tracking and Analysis System),” said Gundry.

During the course, ATOs are required to complete two written examinations with passing scores of 80% or better, in addition to a number of pass/fail skill evaluations. All ATOs must qualify with their weapons systems with a score of 90% or better. According to Gundry, “ATOs are ideally suited for any assignment where facility protection against terrorist attacks is required: Protection of airports and seaports, power plants, water treatment facilities, chemical plants and petroleum facilities, ships carrying hazardous cargo or vessels traveling to high risk destinations, and public events. ATOs are also ideal for supplemental security at military bases, embassies, critical government facilities, and for companies with operations in hostile environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Private Sector Flexibility

An additional advantage of the ATO program Gundry cited is its flexibility. “As a private company, we can modify our methods and systems very easily without having to go through a great bureaucracy to have doctrine and operational changes approved, as is the case with the military and government agencies such as the Department of State. As a result, we can adapt very quickly to changes in terrorist methods and design protective solutions that are timely, practical, and cost-effective,” said the executive. “The ATO program represents a new evolution in domestic security and an excellent example of how the private sector can adapt to changes in society and threat. CIS ATOs provide civilian companies with the ability to protect their facilities with the same capability as the military, yet within the bounds of civilian law and with sensitivity to cost and public and employee relations.”

Gundry described the evolution of CIS’ first major ATO contract. “We originally worked with the TECO security management team as consultants, aiding in their facility vulnerability assessments. It was apparent during the assessments that if their facility security programs were going to be effective in preventing terrorist attacks, they needed some type of effective response force,” he said.

Beating the Enemy

“As demonstrated during Al-Qaeda attacks on facilities worldwide, simply having some barriers and conventional security officers with side arms is worth little or no protection in stopping a well-trained and determined group of adversaries,” remarked Gundry. “Al-Qaeda is one of the few threat groups that repeatedly strike so-called `protected targets’ if they find an exploitable weakness. To be successful in these circumstances, the anti-terrorism program must be developed with genuine emphasis on performance – not just hopeful deterrence. In an effective anti-terrorism program, measure of performance should be based on the likelihood of adversary success. There is no room in this type of program for unsubstantial appearances or assumed effectiveness. Deterrence, as a system objective, should only be considered a byproduct of having a low likelihood of adversary success.”

“With a performance-based system as the goal at TECO, the ATOs were an ideal solution to issues identified during the assessment. They provide an effective and immediate response capability and are highly capable of handling proactive security requirements such as counter-surveillance and investigating suspicious activity.”

Protecting Ports

The executive noted that the ATOs are demonstrating their utility elsewhere. Although TECO Energy is CIS’ first long-term ATO services client, the Clearwater firm has also provided ATOs on a limited basis for protecting chemical ships in seaports during periods of heightened alert. “In response to the need for anti-terrorism personnel in ports, we are currently developing a maritime extension to the ATO training that complies with current government and ISPS mandates for port and ship security,” commented Gundry. “In fact, our training continues where ISPS and the Coast Guard leave off and addresses issues that are largely overlooked in the current required training. We are also developing operational tactics and procuring equipment specific to this mission, such as diving gear for hull searches, modified weapon systems capable of boat disablement, long range night vision optics, etc. In addition to homeland security functions, these maritime ATOs are also ideal for protecting ships traveling through high-risk and violent piracy areas such as the Horn of Africa and the Straits of Malacca.”

More Training Needed

Gundry opined that despite the priority given to Homeland Security by the authorities, insufficient emphasis is placed on providing specialized anti-terror training. “Most of our nation’s critical infrastructure is protected by private security personnel or law enforcement officers with little or no specialized training in terrorism prevention and response,” he declared. “Part of this problem results from a lack of understanding and knowledge about how the threat operates and what is genuinely required to prevent terrorist attacks. Another part of this problem is economics. Many companies are reluctant to pay what it takes to do the job right, or may be afraid of the assumed cost. Fact is, if companies are smart, the cost of upgrading existing security programs to a level where attacks can be genuinely prevented is often very minimal. It’s simply a matter of allocating money wisely. TECO Energy demonstrated this by making major performance improvements to their facility security program while staying within their existing security budget, including even the integration of improved physical security elements and fulltime deployment of Anti-Terrorism Officers.” ***

For more information about CIS anti-terrorism solutions, click here.

CIS Anti-Terrorism Officers Featured in the News

01/14/2004

On Sunday, January 12, the St. Petersburg Times featured a front page in-depth story about CIS Anti-Terrorism Officers (ATOs) and their role in protecting Tampa area power plants. The article was written by Paul De La Garza, a St. Petersburg Times staff reporter who attended our most recent ATO training program in December and January. Click here to read the article.

The January 12 article was followed by a series of news stories by Fox-13, NBC-8, CBS-10, ABC-28, WB-38, Bay News 9, and the Tampa Tribune.

For more information about CIS Anti-Terrorism Officers (ATOs), click here.

Tampa Electric Upgrades Security at Power Plants

The Tampa Tribune
By Will Rodgers
Published January 13, 2004

Antiterrorism officers armed with 9 mm handguns, AR-15 semiautomatic rifles and 12-gauge shotguns now patrol power plants at Tampa Electric Co.

The specially trained security force of about 32 began guarding the utility’s Big Bend, Gannon/Bayside and Polk power stations and other facilities Sunday night to ensure the lights stay on in the company’s 2,000 square-mile territory in Hillsborough County and parts of Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties. They will be deployed around the clock.

Tampa Electric spokesman Ross Bannister said the heightened security is a result of a greater emphasis on protecting the company’s infrastructure rather than any specific threats.

“The point is we have not received any specific threats to our employees or assets” Bannister said. “But because Tampa Electric is a part of the critical infrastructure of the community, the security operation is imperative.”

In August, Tampa Electric hired corporate security consultant Critical Intervention Services Inc. of Clearwater to assess the utility’s vulnerability to terrorism. After evaluating the report from CIS, the utility decided an armed force would be appropriate to protect Tampa Electric’s vital power generating resources.

Craig S. Gundry, CIS vice president for special projects, said computer modeling showed a blackout caused by an attack on Tampa Electric could have significant effect on the Tampa Bay economy, with losses as high as $600 million for each day electricity is down.

Bannister declined to cite specific figures on how much Tampa Electric spends on security. But, he said, Tampa Electric did not increase the budget to pay for the study or armed officers. Also, the upgraded security will not affect consumers’ bills, he said.

Karl C. “K.C.” Poulin, CIS president and chief executive officer, applauded Tampa Electric management for plugging vulnerabilities that his company identified in the assessment.

Gundry would not discuss what the assessment revealed as potential security problems for Tampa Electric, but said the security department at TECO Energy Inc., the parent of Tampa Electric, immediately recognized the need for improvements.

“They assumed it as their responsibility and they moved on it,” he said.

New federal guidelines require armed guards at nuclear facilities, but not at other power plants, energy control centers, substations and other critical facilities.

Charles Hopkins, president of Utilities Security Group LLC in Birmingham, Ala., a consulting outfit, said other utilities are deploying armed antiterrorism officers at coal-, gas- and oil-fired generating plants.

Hopkins declined to name utilities. Power plants at Alabama Power are patrolled by armed guards, Michael Sznajderman, a spokesman, said.

Terror-proofing TECO

The St. Petersburg Times
By Paul De La Garza, Times Staff Writer
Published January 11, 2004

In the post-Sept.11 era of terrorist threats and color-coded warning levels, such security operations sound quaint. Now TECO is sending a warning: Those days are over.

Starting at midnight, the utility will deploy a private force of antiterrorism officers who will be highly trained and armed to the teeth.

Around the clock, nearly three dozen officers carrying 9mm handguns and AR-15 semiautomatic rifles will patrol TECO’s four power plants in Hillsborough and Polk counties. They are the only private guards allowed by the state to carry such rifles besides those protecting nuclear plants.

TECO’s armed force will be complemented by new sensor alarms, surveillance cameras and crash barricades. There are plans for better contact with law enforcement and federal Homeland Security officials. And TECO is beefing up efforts to gather intelligence on individuals or groups who could threaten its plants.

“When this deployment is made,” said Mike Middlebrooks, a senior security official at TECO, “we’re sending a message to the bad guy: Don’t come here!”

The heightened security follows a consultant’s study that exposed TECO’s vulnerability to terrorists and assessed the potential impact of an attack at its plant near the Port of Tampa. It could trigger a blackout throughout Florida, and economic losses in the Tampa Bay area could exceed $600-million a day.

If the attack damaged anhydrous ammonia tanks at the port, the results could be deadly. Another study found that as many as 37,300 people within a 3.3-mile radius of the port could be affected by the ammonia.

TECO officials say the study of the Gannon/Bayside power station by Critical Intervention Services Inc. in Clearwater reinforced what they knew: The terrorist threat at the facility is high, because old-style security plans were designed to address conventional threats, not aircraft hijackings and car bombings.

So tonight, the utility embarks on a new era of unprecedented security. Experts say the level of instruction the force received through CIS under a five-year, multimillion-dollar contract rivals the training of federal law enforcement and the military.

“The training you are providing to the security personnel at Critical Intervention Services (CIS), military personnel and law enforcement professionals is unmatched by civilian readiness training for the war on terror,” Agent Jerry D. White of the Protective Services Detail at U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa wrote to CIS.

The utility expects to deploy more armed guards in the future. A new training program begins in February.

This past month TECO and CIS gave the St. Petersburg Times access to the training in Tampa and St. Petersburg. They want to publicize their plans to discourage terrorists.

* * *

It’s early Sunday morning and pouring rain. The day is dominated by news that U.S.-led coalition forces have captured Saddam Hussein.

Inside a hotel conference room in Tampa, K.C. Poulin, chief executive officer of CIS, leads the orientation for ex-military and ex-law enforcement officers who will make up TECO’s antiterrorism squad.

The group was culled from more than 700 applicants. The men – there are no women – underwent a grueling selection process, including IQ, psychological and drug tests, as well as criminal and credit background checks.

Poulin tries to instill a sense of pride in the group by saying they’re making history.

He says no other private security force in the industry has the type of antiterrorism training they will receive.

That claim cannot be independently confirmed.

As a rule, utility companies do not reveal their security plans. Progress Energy Inc., for example, would not discuss security at its power plants aside from acknowledging that there are armed guards at its Crystal River nuclear plant.

Assessing the potential effectiveness of TECO’s security plan to deter a terrorist attack also is difficult.

Jim Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said TECO’s security plan is impressive.

“This isn’t a race,” Lewis said. “It’s not who’s first. It’s more like, who’s passed the bar, who’s passed the exam, and it sounds like they’ve passed the exam.”

Literally.

To stay in the program, the antiterrorism officers must pass a written test. A typical question: According to the FBI, more than 88 percent of terrorist attacks in the United States are a) explosive or incendiary bomb attacks b) kidnappings c) armed assaults d) biological attacks or e) cyber attacks.

The answer is a.

The guards will earn between $25,000 and $30,000 a year after completing 245 hours of training. They will learn about issues ranging from hazardous materials to explosive devices. And each will be qualified to fire a 9mm Springfield XD handgun, .223-caliber AR-15 rifle and 12-gauge shotgun.

“You have taken on the responsibility of protecting our community,” Poulin tells the trainees. “If you should fail in that commitment, people will die, and the community as we know it today will stop functioning for an indefinite period of time.”

Middlebrooks, the TECO executive behind the project, boils it down.

“We’re giving you that responsibility,” he says, “because there are people all around expecting electricity to be on at the flick of a switch.”

* * *

The guards are a diverse group – some young, some old, some slim, some not. They smoke lots of cigarettes. Of the 40 candidates who started the program, six are cut.

The men revel in the military-style training. They acknowledge comments by the instructors with customary soldier grunts.

Their uniforms are gray, and their equipment consists of an arsenal of high-powered tools, including night vision goggles, infrared spotlights, long- and close-range digital cameras for surveillance, 9mm handguns and rifles.

For the TECO program, CIS obtained a waiver from the state to allow the guards to carry the handguns and rifles.

“In most instances,” CIS wrote to the state, “facility security officers are outnumbered and outgunned by the assault team. The only chance of survival they have is the ability to respond with firepower.”

Art Varnadore of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said he previously has granted a waiver for the AR-15 only to private security forces that guard the state’s three nuclear reactors.

He said he granted the waiver for the TECO officers because of their mission and training. The rifles cannot leave TECO facilities except for maintenance and use in training.

“If you’ve sat in on the training, and you know what they’re going to be guarding out there,” Varnadore said, “it ought to make you sleep better tonight.”

* * *

On a cold and windy day, squad members undergo weapons training at the Wyoming Antelope Club range in Pinellas Park.

“There are no innocent victims we can sacrifice for the greater good,” advises firearms instructor Rick Benn, a corporal in the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. “If you’re going to shoot, don’t miss. If you’re going to miss, don’t shoot.”

The guards rarely miss. To qualify for the program, they must be 90 percent proficient in hitting their target.

The training doesn’t always go smoothly.

During an exercise at a TECO facility, the men are required to map the grounds. They appear lost and unorganized.

Poulin compares their mapping technique to a stroll in the park.

“Let’s do this like a team!” he says. “Do it right! We’re running out of time!”

Officer Julio Collazo, 34, emerges as a leader early on. The TECO squad has been divided into four units, and he has been placed in charge of Alpha Group.

Before moving to Tampa six months ago, Collazo worked security for the San Francisco Municipal Railway and underwent antiterrorism training.

Collazo said the TECO officers take the job seriously.

“We’re not messing around,” he said.

* * *

The vulnerability of the nation’s power system has been well-documented since Sept.11, 2001. TECO’s study reminded company executives that they needed to expand security beyond the use of unarmed guards.

“We needed somebody on our property who could respond to a major incident,” said Clinton Childress, senior vice president of human resources and services at TECO. “And we needed somebody to be proactive.”

TECO security turned to CIS, which has gained national acclaim for its innovative crime-fighting methods in high-crime neighborhoods, including Tampa. The company has been featured prominently in the Wall Street Journal and on ABC News.

Craig Gundry, vice president of special projects at CIS, wrote that the most significant result of a terrorist attack on the Gannon/Bayside power station would be economic damage and public frustration.

“An act of sabotage, resulting in indefinite interruption of operations, can create a severe power shortage throughout the Tampa-area grid,” Gundry said. “Depending on the nature of the sabotage, restoration of full-service power may take anywhere from days to six months or longer.”

CIS assessed various threat scenarios, including suicide aircraft attacks and armed assaults, and made recommendations.

TECO would not say precisely how much it is spending on the program. The equipment for the guards cost $100,000.

Spokesman Ross Bannister said the program will not affect electricity rates, because the cost is built into the company’s existing budget for safety and security.

Donald Tighe, spokesman at the federal Department of Homeland Security, pointed to the TECO program as a good example of how the private sector and government can work together to combat terrorism.

“In our free economy, there’s an incredibly broad range of points of vulnerability … and it sounds like a real acceptance of responsibility and commitment to the security that Tampa Electric has made, and we certainly applaud that kind of thing,” Tighe said.

Massoud Amin, a professor of electric and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota, said the TECO security effort is in line with steps taken by other utilities. He said utility companies took precautions to deal with the Y2K bug well before 9/11.

TECO has a separate division that deals with cyber threats.

Amin, an expert on security of the nation’s power supply, said that utilities have bolstered security since 9/11, so the country’s power grid is safer.

But because of the impact an attack would have on the American economy and psyche, he said, the country’s power supply remains a tempting target for terrorists.

“The sky is not falling,” Amin said, “but a lot remains to be done.”

Another Meaning to Homeland Security

By Nadra Enzi
January 2003

I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with the command staff and officers of Critical Intervention Services(CIS),a Clearwater, Florida prevention agency licensed to provide security and investigative services.

It began on January 24th, 2003, the same day the federal Department of Homeland Security officially opened doors for business.

I witnessed real, grassroots homeland security in action.

CIS resembles a combination private police/social service agency.

This combination, particularly applied to the needs of captive inner city housing residents, produces on-site assistance available 24 hours a day.

By building relationships with the community and even the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, CIS has amassed impressive results.

Residents often call the CIS Operations Center instead of 911. Officers not only deter criminal activity but also provide non-security help to their clients. This creates a bond between the two that has lead to real improvement in a number of complexes customarily dismissed as lost causes.

The quality of the agency’s recruitment, training and field performance has led the local Sheriffs Office to request CIS officers to back up arrests and other law enforcement activity on protected properties. This is almost unheard of nationally. Like the general public, most law enforcement agencies regard private security as unintelligent, unreliable and frankly, unworthy of anything except the most menial tasks.

As a security writer, I am qualified to discuss this industry and communicate its truths to a populace that has little practical insight into its inner workings. My experiences as a professional in various security disciplines allows an “inside out” perspective when addressing safety topics.

CIS combination of private law enforcement with social service initiatives is at least two generations ahead of its peers in private security and traditional social services. While there are regular guards who patrol high crime communities, they are not empowered to actively route criminals from the premises. Truthfully, the average security guard is not competent enough nor equipped to confront career criminals. Many public and private social service agencies have case workers who regularly frequent the worst environments. Their clinical skills can correct individual and even family disfunction, but, unlike CIS officers, they cannot combat the overall environment that daily damages their clients.

Imagine the image and tactical knowledge of a protection officer guided by the temperament and concern of a social worker.

This fusion is what inner city landlords and their tenants experience every day when encountering CIS officers and their Character and Community Based Protection Initiative (CCBPI) philosophy.

The most hopeless neighborhoods can be changed, but only by those armed with the olive branch of friendship and the shield of professional protection.

The author is a security writer whose work is available on any search engine. He is a public safety officer at Savannah Technical College.

Contact: Nadra Enzi P.O. Box 11042, Savannah, GA 31412, (912) 412-3806, nadratwo@yahoo.com.