I-TEAM UPDATE: Illegal security guard investigation leads to changes at venues

Wednesday, March 20, 2019
News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

March 20, 2019

AUGUSTA, Ga. --(WRDW/WAGT) Since our I-team started investigating illegal security, two of the biggest venues in our area, the James Brown Arena and the Bell Auditorium tell us they have changed their policies when it comes to hiring security. But, we've found a lot of venues don't have much in place when it comes to vetting and hiring security guards.

We found unlicensed security guards working at Lady Antebellum Amphitheatre, Miller Theatre, James Brown Arena, Bell Auditorium, USC Aiken Convocation Center, Western Carolina State Fair, and Kids Prompt Care.

With a list like that, chances are you've gone to an event where they were on duty. Ricky Davis says he's been going to events at these venues for years.

"To the Bell, ever since I was a kid. To the JBA, ever since they built it," Davis said. "I assume coming here with my fiance we are coming to a safe place to enjoy ourselves and be safe doing that."

We found the security company 'The Security Guys' working at all of those venues we mentioned was not licensed by the state, did not have proof of proper training, or background checks for their employees.

We asked the owner Brian Brady how they get jobs without a state license. "Nobody's even said anything to us. No venue, nobody we've ever done work for has said you gotta be state certified," he explained.

When SLED found the Security Guys working events in South Carolina without a license, they interviewed the manager of campus events at USC Aiken. He said he, 'did not know they were working illegally in South Carolina...' and 'admitted he did not properly research the company. To read the full report, click on the document tab.

Columbia County hired the Security Guys at least eleven times. We found they were invoiced as 'security.' In an email, Columbia county told us the Security Guys haven't worked for the county since March of 2018. When they were hired, they acted as 'gatekeepers.' But, the state considers that the role of a security guard.

They also pointed out their Columbia County Community Events annual spend is below the county's contracting threshold of $20,000, so they do not go through a formal bid process with staffing companies when looking for 'security' options.

The vetting process is vague.

Like many venues, they hire Columbia County Sheriff's deputies for 'actual security needs.' But, the state has told us, that doesn't eliminate a need for security to be licensed. Their role is to back up deputies should an emergency happen, and the state licensing requires training for that.

Allan Davis is the Vice-President of Sizemore Security in Augusta, a licensed security company that has grown into a national name. He says venues and businesses have a big responsibility with your safety and it comes down to who they hire.

"I think they need to do their research and their due diligence. Make sure they're hiring someone licensed with the state of Georgia," he said.

So why isn't that happening? Where's the breakdown happening with venues?

Spectra manages the James Brown Arena and the Bell Auditorium. They didn't want to go on camera with us, but they did tell us they have made changes since our investigation began. They told us, until further notice, the Security Guys are no longer on site. They have hired a state licensed company, Contemporary Services Corporation. We also found they did not have a contract on file with the Security Guys. Moving forward, they have changed that. In an email, General Manager Chris Bird says, "We have included a clause in the contract that ensures any security vendor holds a state security license in addition to the county business license labeled "security and patrol."

We asked what information the Security Guys provided when Spectra selected them for their security services back in 2015. Bird said, "We went through a competitive bid process for unarmed, non-exclusive staffing services with multiple qualified companies in 2015. We ultimately chose to start working with TSG after we required them to provide us with their County business license for "security and patrol," as well as a certificate of insurance, which named the Coliseum Authority and Spectra as additionally insured."

Back in February, we told you Columbia county issued that business license for 'security guard and patrol services', but shouldn't have since the Security Guys aren't professionally licensed with the state. 

In an email, they also told us, "We want all guests of the James Brown Arena to know that their safety while visiting the venue is our top priority. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office is our primary source of security for every event. We work intimately onsite with them as the only armed law enforcement group, to ensure the safety of our guests. All part-time and full-time Spectra employees-from ticket-takers to ushers to stage hands-are fully and rigorously vetted. They undergo background checks and are drug-tested annually. In addition, they are required to learn a variety of policies and procedures and receive regular training focused on event operations."

And, now that they are working with a state licensed security company, their contracted security team has similar requirements to meet from the state level.

Gene Staulcup who used to sit on the Georgia licensing board for security companies says hiring an illegal security company opens the door to liability.

"Look at the exposure the company has, the individual hiring the guards that's not licensed...and the possibility of something tragic happening," he said.

And that's really why hiring licensed, trained security guards matters. The goal is to do everything you can to prevent or at least react with the right training if something tragic does happen. Allan Davis trains his guards for active shooting scenarios frequently, not just because it's mandated by Georgia and South Carolina, but because it's happening more often.

"The violence, active shooter, workplace shooting, even when I started my career, I never thought we would see school shootings with little children, churches, venues. That trend has changed," he points out.

It's changed big time. This chart from the FBI shows the number of active shooter incidents per year in the US since 2000.

This one shows the number of casualties by year from those events.

That number has climbed 10,400% in seventeen years. That's why Davis says trained, licensed security is more important now than ever.

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