I-TEAM INVESTIGATES: Unlicensed security company working at local venues
Feb. 13, 2019
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Our I-team found dozens of security companies, security guards, and private detectives caught operating illegally in Georgia.
Our I-team found a security company that works for nearly all of the big venues in the CSRA still working, despite this cease and desist they signed promising they would not.
And, they could be putting you at risk.
Joni Coward has lived in the Augusta area for 40 years. She brings her grandchildren to events at the James Brown Arena, like the monster truck show, all the time. The more security guards she sees, the safer she feels.
"I think it's more important than ever with everything that's going on," Coward said.
At least, that's how she felt until we told her the security guards working the monster truck show did not have a license to do business as a security company, were not background checking their employees, and could not provide proof of proper training.
"I find that very disappointing. You've got to wonder what is behind the scenes and what is going on. And, exactly why that isn't happening. Why would they not have people who have background checks?"
This particular company is called 'The Security Guys.' They've worked events all over the CSRA for big venues like the Lady Antebellum Amphitheatre, Miller Theatre, James Brown Arena, USC Aiken, Bell Auditorium, and the Western Carolina State Fair.
We also found them working security at Kids Prompt Care on Walton Way.
In October, SLED shut them down at the Western Carolina State Fair. A report says agents saw a guard 'holding a walkie talkie wearing a red t-shirt with 'security guys' displayed on the front and 'security' on the back.' They asked them to leave, contacted fair officials, and told them 'the Security Guys could not be contracted as a security company, because they are not licensed to work security in the state of South Carolina.'
Gene Staulcup is a former Richmond county investigator. He's now a private detective, and he served on the state board that licenses private security companies for years. He says a security company license is a lot more than a fee and a piece of paper.
"Public safety is the number one issue. Knowing that the person that's acting as a security guard does not have a criminal history...someone that shouldn't exercise control over other people that security guards may exercise," Staulcup explained.
And, here's why you should care that security companies are licensed. The state checks to make sure they are doing background checks, have a surety bond or insurance, and proper training.
Georgia requires a minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction in a basic training program. Look at this list of minimum training requirements for security guards:
(1) Role of Private Security
(a) Crime Awareness and Prevention
(b) Private Security and the Criminal Justice System
(c) Ethics and Professionalism
(2) Legal Aspects
(a) Principal Misdemeanors and Felonies
(b) Overview of Title 43-38 as it relates to the Security Profession
(c) Overview of Board Rules 509 et al
(d) Arrest and Proper Use of Force
(f) Courtroom testimony
(3) Patrol and Observation
(a) Patrol techniques
(b) Information gathering
(c) Crimes in progress
(d) Officer Safety
(e) Note taking and Report Writing
(4) Incident Response
(a) Responding to Emergencies
(b) Crowd control and evacuation
(c) Fire control and Prevention
(d) Hazardous Materials
(e) Bomb Threats and Terrorism
(5) Security Resources
(a) CCTV Operation and Video Documentation
(b) Alarm systems
(c) Access Control
(d) Electronic Article Surveillance
(6) Customer Service Issues
(a) Public relations
(b) Interpersonal Communications
(7) First Aid Overview
So why are these companies not getting licensed? We tracked down Brian Brady who claims to be the sole owner of the Security Guys to find out. He didn't want to talk to us on camera, but agreed to answer our questions on the phone.
He told News 12's Laura Warren, "We do not have to be certified to do what we do. There's a loophole in doing security and doing event staffing."
But a name says a lot, and their name is the Security Guys. We asked why 'security' was in their name if they don't do security.
"We named it that a long time ago not knowing the laws," Brady said.
When we questioned them about the cease and desist order on file with the State of Georgia, Brady said, "That's right. To do any type of security."
They signed the cease and desist order in December. So why did we see the Security Guys working at Futurity, the Miller Theatre, Kids Prompt Care, and the monster truck show this past month?
"We are doing event staffing. We're not out doing patrol services, security at businesses and stuff like that. The only thing we do is concerts and outdoor events. We're not actually doing security itself."
But Kids Prompt Care is a business, not an event.
And, both states appear to disagree with his definition of event staffing. South Carolina law identifies a security business as 'personnel with authority to allow or refuse access to property.' Georgia's definition also includes 'guard service.'
"You're counting on the fact you're secure and everybody's taken care of. If that's not true, and they're just regular people or something like that, you take the children's lives in their hands and everything else," Coward said.
Brady told us the shirts say 'STAFF' at the Miller. But, after our phone conversation, his security guards were spotted working an event at the Miller with shirts labelled 'SECURITY.'
We did find a Columbia County business license on file for the Security Guys from 2015 and 2018, which points to another problem. There's a Georgia law that says counties are not allowed to issue business licenses to security companies that do not have a professional license with the state. We've reached out to Columbia County to find out why they issued those business licenses.
After our I-team started investigating, the Security Guys did apply for a license with Georgia, but they have not been approved yet. Brady told us a representative with the company has already taken and passed the licensing exam.
The Secretary of State's Office issued the following statement regarding their application status "They are still under a cease and desist order. We cannot comment on applications or their statuses. It is important to note that the private detectives and security agencies board takes this very seriously and reviews all applications as part of the licensing process. Furthermore, taking and passing an exam does not automatically qualify a business to be licensed but it is a requirement to receive a license."