Executive Summary:

Crime may be down in the city, but Angelenos apparently aren't feeling very safe yet. The California Employment Development Department expects the number of guards and other security personnel to grow by 20 percent over a seven-year period. Analysts say that as public awareness of crime increases, it creates a demand for gated communities and institutional and corporate security services.

There is another factor: Many corporations that used to have their own in-house security operations are outsourcing these functions to security-guard firms, according to Barry Schulman, business development manager at Burns International Security Services.

The growth of the industry, together with declining unemployment in L.A., is making it more difficult to find qualified security personnel. This is a serious problem for an industry that needs to portray an image of reliability and trust.

Many of the smaller companies cannot afford to do their own background screenings for potential guards, insiders say. So for these companies, the only background checks are those done by the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, which licenses all security guards in the state although its licensing criteria have come under scrutiny after press reports of widespread abuses in the security-guard industry.

The Pacesetter:

Alhambra-based Inter-Con Security Services Inc. has been in business since 1973. The privately owned firm specializes in the security needs of large public and private institutions. Its clients include the state of California, for which it provides security for Caltrans and the Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and the NASA Space Shuttle Program.

One major area of focus, according to Vice President Neil Martau, is providing diplomatic security, both in the United States and overseas. Perhaps the company's most challenging contract was to provide security for the United States Embassy in Liberia during the civil war in that country. Not only did the firm have to recruit security personnel within the country, under very difficult circumstances, it also helped run an orphanage on the embassy grounds. Martau sees international government security services as one of the main growth areas for the firm.

Martau is concerned over the public image of his industry, although he maintains that Inter-Con maintains the highest professional standards for its personnel. He would like to see tighter regulations, including more emphasis on training and screening of candidates, in order to raise the caliber of security personnel industrywide.

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