Private Estate Security: Should You Engage Security Personnel on a “Rent” or “Buy” Basis?

Marc Debrody

Should families keep their current arrangement or hire their own guards directly on an in-house, full-time basis?

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Not long ago, our team was asked by one of our private clients to help them assess how they were approaching security guards at their 100-acre estate. The site included one or two residences, along with a handful of secondary structures, and was supported by several household and ground staff. The security presence involved 24-hour coverage by three guards rotating every eight hours, leaving one always on site.

According to the client, some of the security guards were top notch. “They do their job, they’re proactive, they know the family members and other staff and are great at balancing our needs for both privacy and security.” The other guards, however, were not as “tuned in.” The client explained that when one member fell ill or took a vacation, new guards rotated through. Overall, the client was concerned about maintaining consistency and familiarity with the nuances of the family’s culture, environment and personalities.

Should families keep their current arrangement or hire their own guards directly on an in-house, full-time basis? Every family is different. But the pros and cons of “renting” versus “buying” this service are often similar across clients.

External Security Vendors: Greater Convenience, Possible Security Oversight Issues

The outsourced model certainly has advantages. The fee you pay per hour covers a lot of additional costs, like background checks, insurance, training and administrative tasks – such as scheduling coverage or scrambling to find replacement officers when one is not able to come to work. However, it can be tiring to train and orient new personnel continuously. Having unknown personnel show up on any given day can also be difficult for children, especially if they are encouraged to “beware of strangers.”

Another factor is overall security oversight. In this case, our assessors identified a gap in on-site security management and oversight. On the property, many people held varying levels of responsibility for security-related tasks, from locking doors at night to securing valuables to keeping track of keys and electronic gate opening devices. But no one had the full “big picture” on security and that factor alone elevated risks significantly.

In-House Security: More Consistency, More Effort to Manage

If you interview carefully and select individuals with strong credentials and personalities that fit well within your staff and family, in-house security personnel can provide exceptional levels of service. But unless you are an expert in security, someone is going to have to take responsibility for understanding federal, state and local compliance regulations in the industry and ensuring that the individuals you hire remain current with respect to licensing, training and certification.

One of the critical issues with internal security personnel – especially if they are armed – is use of force. What should your policies be in this regard? What are the liability implications if a guard harms someone through use of force? Is it better to task these in-house positions merely with “observe and report” responsibilities?

Another challenge is that private homeowners can rarely provide the robust promotion, career path support and professional development opportunities that vendors do. Are your security employees going to be happy with a position that is effectively static? For how long will actively patrolling your premises all day, every day, be fulfilling to them? A third challenge is finding qualified people. In some cases and environments, you may not be able to find anyone appropriate without a lengthy search.

A Hybrid Solution May Be the Best Answer

Some of our clients choose a hybrid option. They may hire one full-time individual during the day and then have outsourced personnel covering the evening hours when there is little interaction with family members. Another variation on this theme is to engage security advisors, like ourselves, to handle matters involving recruiting, interviewing, screening and training. Ultimately, the best answer depends on you.

We can help you make the right decisions for your home and family. Learn more about how Jensen Hughes can help address your private residential security capabilities across personnel, processes, policies, and technology at a best-practice level that aligns with your risk environment, lifestyle, and preferences.

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About the author

Marc Debrody
Marc brings a distinguished career of 28 years in federal and local law enforcement, having recently retired as a supervisory special agent from the Secret Service.

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