DAILY REPUBLIC
Fairfield-Suisun, CA
March 20, 2007

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Security guard looks for trouble brewing around apartment complex

SUISUN CITY — Doug Gibson’s domain is the Village Green apartments on Sunset Avenue and Pintail Drive.

At the beginning of his night shift, Gibson strides around the complex, checking gates, laundry rooms and shadowy nooks and crannies of all 22 buildings. He shines his flashlight into vehicles looking for suspicious activity. He takes note of people and vehicles to make sure they belong there. Even when the night is damp and chilly, Gibson continues his rounds without complaining.

Gibson has served as security guard of Village Green apartments for three years. At the beginning of his tenure, Gibson helped chase out drug dealers who loitered outside the complex. He has also caught someone trying to break into a unit and another time he interrupted an attempted theft. “I’m told I do it well,” Gibson said of his job. “That’s why I do it.”

Gibson, a sergeant with Windwalker Security, began his career in private security 10 years ago by working sporting events. He was at San Francisco 49ers games, college football games and escorted the Raiderettes.

Six years ago, he decided he wanted to work as an armed security guard. To earn the privilege of carrying weapons, security guard candidates shouldn’t drink or use illegal drugs.

It still wasn’t easy. Gibson hired a personal trainer to teach him to use chemical spray and baton. Even though he already knew how to shoot a gun. Gibson had to pay for the training. Like all security guards in the state, Gibson had to earn his weapons permits from the state Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.

To carry a firearm, Gibson had to pass a 14-hour course of class and shooting range training, according to the bureau. The firearms permit requires security guards to keep their guns visible. Gibson also trained for two hours to earn his tear-gas permit and completed eight hours of training for his baton permit, according to the bureau. Gibson must requalify for his firearms permit three times a year.

All security guards must have registration from the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. To get that registration guards must be at least 18, pass a background check and finish 40 hours of training. Part of the training involves learning about the power to arrest. Other things security guards learn are conflict resolution, crowd control and first aid.

Gibson’s main role is to be visible and deter any troublemakers. But at the same time he wears head-to-toe black to give him cover in the darkness.

Once during his rounds, Gibson encountered a man from an ornamental fence company removing the motor of the exit gate. Gibson thought the man was changing the motor, but asked the apartment manager about the work anyway. The manager told Gibson he didn’t order any gate repairs so Gibson returned to the man and demanded he return the motor. The suspect quickly fled.

Another time Gibson spotted a strange woman on a tenant’s balcony. Gibson even conducted investigations. A tenant reported his car stolen so Gibson questioned his neighbors before finding the vehicle and the culprit not far away.

Other times, his deeds are more mundane – such as helping a woman reach for laundry that was in a tall dryer or escorting the manager.

While Gibson is protecting tenants from outside intruders, he also scours the grounds for undesirable tenants. Apartment management may weed out problematic tenants through the screening process. But some tenants who pass background checks may bring guests or relatives who cause trouble.

Gibson keeps an eye out for residents violating apartment rules and reports to the manager which people aren’t following their lease agreements.

When Gibson started at Village Green, residents had a problem with a bus stop on the corner. Drug dealers and their associates lurked at the bus stop. “They said they were waiting for the bus but they didn’t get on,” Gibson said. “  They were at the bus stop to loiter.”

Gibson pushed for removal of the bus stop so the group wouldn’t have a hangout. He can arrest someone if he needs to. Using his weapons is his last resort.  “If I see a perceived threat I stand back and keep my distance,” Gibson said. “ I may reach for my spray.”

Gibson can use deadly force if he suspects someone will use deadly force on him. The security guard has acted as back-up for police officers.

He also cooperates with police to rid the area of crooks. Gibson will update Suisun City police with crimes in the area so officers can take care of them.

Security guards can be an extra set of eyes for police as well as a deterrent for crooks, said Suisun City police Chief Ed Dadisho. In return, police can teach security guards how to spot criminal activity and be good witnesses for police.

Dadisho mentioned a Bureau of Justice Assistance report that recommended security guards and police to team up to promote homeland security. The report read that security guards were some of the first responders to the World Trade Center attack in 2001.

Security guards have the advantage of being able to protect smaller areas, which police can’t do. And the guards may have specialized knowledge of what they patrol. Police have wider powers of arrest. Both groups can share information and collaborate on solving problems, the report read.

Suisun City police are close partners with the apartment security guards at Sunset Avenue and Pintail Drive, Dadisho said. Police will also form partnerships with other security guards, the chief said. “We can educate them, they can educate us,” Dadisho said.