In the movie, “Mall Cop,” a shopping mall is overtaken by a gang of organized crooks, leaving a mild-manner security guard to save the day.
The bumbling security officer, played by Kevin James, catches the criminals – but only because of pure luck. He’s portrayed as a “cop wannabe” who would be a real police officer, if only he could pass the physical exam. But while the movie pokes fun at overweight mall troopers on Segway scooters, in reality many security guards are highly trained, skilled workers who play a great public service in protecting companies and institutions from terrorism, vandalism, and threats.
Security is one of the fastest growing careers, with security-related jobs expected to grow 14 percent by 2018, creating over 152,500 positions, many of them with private security firms. Nearly a fifth of all the jobs the federal government will be hiring for in the next few years will be in the security realm, particularly within the Department of Homeland Security. And while the field is still dominated by men, more and more women are entering the security sector, attracted by the wide range of opportunities.
At the Prudential Center, a steady stream of tourists, locals and office tenants visits the complex, which is connected to the Hynes Convention Center, hotels, and shops and restaurants. Most people see only a busy shopping and dining destination, but for Vanessa Marte, a security officer with AlliedBarton security services, the Pru is an area of patrol quadrants, where she needs to be on the alert not just to answer typical questions – “Where are the Duck Boats?” – but also be ready to deal with everything from lost children to shoplifting prevention. “The way things are in the world today, people feel safer when there’s a security presence,” says Marte, who underwent a background check, drug testing, and company training before being hired.
Q: Why did you want to be a security guard?
A: I was very much a girly-girl until middle school, when I met a family friend who was a soldier. I admired him so much that I wanted to be like him. I joined the military right out of high school and served three years. Something in me always wanted to be in law enforcement or security. I enjoy helping people, and being someone that you can go to if there’s a problem.
Q: You’re a security guard at a shopping center, but what are the other opportunities available to you?
A: From time to time, I’ll work special events, like Celtics games at TD North Bank Garden. That’s a win-win, because while I get paid for crowd control, you also can see the game, of course. Other places that security is needed are office buildings, chemical plants, banks, college campuses, hospitals, gated communities, government facilities, and manufacturing and industrial plants.
Q: What’s your typical day like?
A: I’ll come in, change into my uniform, which is a paramilitary uniform with jump boots, and receive our morning briefing, updating us on any news or events that might affect our duties. I pick up keys, which are used to enter restricted areas, and spend the rest of the time being vigilant and ready, whether it’s helping an ailing elderly person to making sure the slippery sidewalks have enough salt.
Q: What’s the most unusual situation you’ve been in?
A: A couple of times, people have asked me to pose for pictures for a scavenger hunt.
Q: Any advice for someone who wants to be a security guard?
A: Keep a clean record and have good customer service skills. A good security officer has integrity and decisiveness, but also help people feel welcome and secure.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
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