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Guardsmark: Public Safety’s new face

Mailee C. Wang

The Public Safety Department was outsourced to security firm Guardsmark, LLC this summer.

The decision came after many complaints and problems with crime on campus last spring, specifically a string of dormitory burglaries and sightings of unaccompanied non-Mills individuals at night.

Assistant Vice President for Business Affairs Karen Maggio said that the College decided to outsource for their guards to a private firm because they felt “some of our guards were not as well trained as they should be.” She also remarked that it is “time consuming to train and recruit guards, and the College would rather spend their time in other areas.”

Maggio said that the College “started looking at a contracted public safety organization because they have resources to train personnel for that, and they do extensive background checks.” She said that the transition to Guardsmark was made over the summer to ensure everything ran smoothly before students returned to campus.

Hiring Guardsmark cost the college more than maintaining their own Public Safety personnel, but the decision was made to “provide better qualified guards,” according to Maggio.

Mills researched possible private security firms and chose Guardsmark on the basis of a “good track record in the industry,” said Maggio.

Not all of the previous Public Safety officers have been replaced-Maggio said that two or three guards transitioned to Guardsmark and remain at Mills. “It’s been nice to have those folks with us to bridge the transition,” she said.

Guardsmark is a private security company founded in 1963, with headquarters in several major cities. They employ about 18,000 people nationwide, with about 600 of those employed in the Bay Area. Guardsmark supplies security to a large number of landmarks and offices, including the SF Museum of Modern Art. Their Web site boasts that about 30 percent of their employees are college-educated.

Critics have argued in the past that while the demand for private security is rapidly growing, it has “become a virtual dumping ground for the unstable, the dishonest, and the violent,” concluded a March 1992 investigation of the industry by Time Magazine. The article also said “many security experts consider [Guardsmark] the best national firm in the business.” The article said that Guardsmark’s employee turnover rate is 57 percent per year.

The Guardsmark Web site outlines their application: “only one out of every 50 applicants passes our rigorous selection process.” Potential employees complete a 40-page application that includes employment, military, educational and residential histories for the previous ten years. Their Web site said they perform complete background and police record checks, psychological testing, extensive drug testing and, if the state permits, polygraph testing to confirm the validity of the data.

Many students have noticed a marked change with Guardmark’s presence on campus. Colleen Zickler, a residential sophomore, said that she has noticed some positive changes, but misses the old public safety officers who “seemed more friendly.”

Ella Wolfgramm, a junior commuting student, has not noticed much change. “I don’t really pay attention. I think when you live on campus, if there is a difference, you’ll notice it more. But as a commuter, I don’t really see a difference.”

Tina Sogliuzzo, a junior residential student, noted some improvement, but said there was room for more. “There is still not enough communication between public safety officers at all.”

While some students are wary of the change, Maggio said, “Any time you make a change, you have to give the change a chance.”