The Pros and Cons of Hiring An Unarmed vs. Armed Security Guard
From vandalism to burglaries to homicides, crime is a reality of life.
Every home, every business, and every event is susceptible to criminal activity. That’s why so many businesses are choosing to hire security guards to protect their assets, as well as to oversee the protection of their employees and guests.
According to the FBI, pre-COVID data from 2019 shows that a violent crime was committed every 26.3 seconds, while property crimes were committed every 4.6 seconds. As of 2022, violent crime rates have dropped to pre-pandemic levels, but some crimes, such as robbery, have increased across the nation.
One of the best preventative measures you can take against crime is to hire a security guard. But first, you’ll have to decide if you need to hire a guard that’s armed or unarmed.
Not sure which type of guard is right for your business?
Here are the pros and cons of hiring armed vs unarmed guards to protect your business or your next event.
What Type of Security Guard Do You Need?
Deciding whether to hire an armed or unarmed guard depends on the type of business you run. It also depends on how much risk is involved. High-risk businesses should consider armed security guard services, while unarmed guards are usually sufficient for businesses that have low-risk security needs.
To decide which type of guard to hire, consider the level of risk that you, your customers, your employees, or your event guests might face.
Examples of businesses that have high security risks include:
- Retail locations with expensive assets, such as jewelry or other luxury merchandise
- Commercial spaces with a lot of cash, valuables, or sensitive data on hand
- Offices or apartment buildings with a significant number of occupants
- Events with high-profile VIPs, including sporting events, concerts, movie sets, and political events
- Entertainment venues accessible to the general public
- Docks and marinas, especially those that harbor luxury yachts
- Any business located in a high-crime area
Business owners that operate in areas with a high crime rate should consider their businesses at risk, even if the nature of their business wouldn’t be deemed “risky” in an area with a lower crime rate.
For example, high-end retail outlets, jewelry stores, banks, and financial institutions are almost always considered high risk. But in a high-crime area, even convenience stores, gas stations, and restaurants may be susceptible to criminal activity.
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What Do Unarmed Security Guards Do?
First and foremost, unarmed security officers play a major role in crime prevention. Many would-be criminals will think twice about taking part in criminal activity once they see that there’s a security guard on the premises.
Having said that, security guards do much more than deter vandals and keep thieves at bay. Unarmed guards, in particular, provide a variety of security solutions, such as:
- Creating safe entry and exit protocols (access control)
- Preventing people from entering restricted areas
- Screening or checking for weapons prior to entry
- Leading emergency evacuation plans
- Crowd control
In some situations, unarmed security professionals may also provide one-on-one assistance to customers, guests, and employees. They often escort guests and employees to their cars, provide directions, and staff the reception desk or front door of commercial offices and retail locations.
What Do Armed Security Guards Do?
Armed security guards do everything that unarmed guards do, with one addition:
They carry a firearm.
Armed guards undergo extensive training to prepare them to respond to life-threatening security matters. In fact, many are ex-police and ex-military who have years of experience in handling and discharging weapons. When necessary, they may use deadly force — and they’re permitted and trained to do so.
Unarmed Security Guards: The Pros and Cons
Like every other business decision you have to make, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of hiring an unarmed security professional. Here’s a look at how they can benefit your business, as well as why they may not be the right choice for your needs.
The Pros of Unarmed Security
Station an unarmed security pro at your door, and you can instantly provide your employees, customers, and guests with a safer environment. Here’s an in-depth look at why unarmed guards might be the best choice for your business.
The physical presence of security personnel, even when unarmed, is an effective crime deterrent. Many criminals will not commit an unlawful act in a space where security is present, alert, and ready to intervene.
Provide Peace of Mind
Unarmed guards provide peace of mind. They send the signal to employees, guests, and patrons of your business that someone is on watch to ensure a safe and secure environment at all times. They also send the message that you are a trustworthy business that values the safety of everyone on the premises.
More Cost-Effective Than Armed Guards
It’s more cost-effective to hire an unarmed guard than an armed guard. Armed guards cost more because they have weapons training and additional skills that unarmed guards do not.
The Cons of Unarmed Security Guards
While all guards can provide excellent protection, there is one main drawback to hiring an unarmed pro over an armed guard:
If a significant threat arises, they may not be able to stop it.
Unarmed guards are often equipped with non-lethal weapons, such as pepper spray, tasers, and batons. But depending on the threat, non-lethal weapons may not provide enough protection.
For example, should an armed gunman gain entry into your business or event, your security guard’s only option may be to call for backup from armed law enforcement professionals. An armed guard, on the other hand, may be able to stop the threat in its tracks without having to wait for police officers to arrive on scene.
Armed Security Guards: The Pros and Cons
In a high-risk business, an armed guard may be the only way to provide the level of security your business needs. Here are the pros and cons of adding an armed weapons expert to your security team.
The Pros of Armed Security
Depending on the nature of your business and its location, an armed guard can be an invaluable asset. Yes, they can add to your payroll expenses — but there are several benefits that more than justify the cost.
Like unarmed guards, armed security experts are a highly effective crime-prevention measure. Many crimes are crimes of opportunity where the criminal strikes because the business appears to be easy to attack. Armed guards make it clear that your business is not an easy target, and most criminals prefer ones that are.
In general, armed guards can make customers, guests, and staff feel more secure. This can improve your clientele’s confidence in your business, as well as their perception of safety. Furthermore, if a dangerous situation arises, these pros have what it takes to eliminate a threat as soon as it presents itself.
Immediate assessment and elimination of a threat is key to maintaining everyone’s safety. Because armed guards have firearms training, they can provide instant protection against a threat without having to wait for law enforcement agencies to arrive on scene.
The Cons of Armed Security Guards
Before hiring an armed guard, consider the drawbacks of having a firearm visible in your place of business.
Guns Make Some People Uncomfortable
Not everyone feels comfortable around firearms. For that reason, having an armed security guard could do more than make potential criminals feel nervous — they could make certain customers feel nervous, too.
In addition to feeling uneasy around guns, some customers, staff, and guests may assume that the presence of an armed guard means that they’re in a dangerous place that needs extreme protection. Even if it is a “dangerous” place, this is not the message that most businesses want to send.
People expect to see armed guards in locations with a high risk of theft, such as banks, courthouses, and luxury retail stores. But placing an armed guard in a restaurant, church, or anywhere that they’re not expected could create anxiety in people who are not comfortable around guns.
Armed Guards Cost More
Unarmed security guards, who have less training, don’t cost as much as armed guards.
Depending on your budget and the risk level of your business, it may or may not be cost-effective to hire a guard who has a license to carry a firearm.
In addition to firearms training, most armed security professionals undergo other types of training. They learn de-escalation techniques, how to read non-verbal cues and body language, and conflict resolution — all of which can minimize potential dangers and eliminate threats.
Increased Cost of Liability Insurance
When necessary, an armed security officer may use lethal force, which can result in extreme injury or even death. For this reason, you’ll need to purchase additional liability insurance to protect your organization’s assets.
Of course, more liability insurance means higher operating costs for your business.
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Tips for Choosing the Right Security Company
There are many different types of security companies you can hire. Consider the following factors when interviewing and vetting potential guards.
Always check online reviews and testimonials before hiring a security company.
You can use a security services search directory, such as Security Explorer, to read reviews about the best services in your area. Listening to what other customers and clients have to say about their experiences can help you decide if a particular security company is right for your business.
You can also run background checks and reference checks on security personnel. It’s critical to vet your guards, as you’re putting everyone’s safety and security in their hands.
It goes without saying that you want your security personnel to have experience. What’s more important is that they have the right type of experience.
Some companies are experts in event security, while others specialize in the protection of hospitals, banks, or office buildings.
A guard who has experience working in your particular business or industry will be best prepared for the task at hand. You can trust that they possess an in-depth understanding of the potential threats you could face.
Always compare prices and services to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.
Obtain quotes from two or three different security experts so that you know if you’re paying the right amount for the level and quality of service they offer.
Familiarity With Your Local Region
Security guards are experts in situational awareness who can adapt to almost any setting. Still, it’s important that they’re familiar with your geographical region. To fully understand and prepare for the risks that your business may face, they’ll need to be aware of the local demographics, the surrounding businesses, and the neighborhood as a whole.
Security guards offer protection against active threats, and when an active threat isn’t present, they help deter crime and offer peace of mind.
Whether you choose to hire armed or unarmed guards, it’s one of the most effective ways to protect your business while ensuring that your employees, guests, and patrons always feel secure.
Without a guard, your business runs the risk of becoming an easy target that attracts criminals — which can cause significant damage and harm.
Professional security services are available all across the country. If you’re looking to hire a guard in California, connect with Security Explorer now to find experts you can trust and rely on to keep your business safe.