Number of security guards in county surges

Anne Arundel's 170 percent increase since 2001 is largest in nation, federal labor report says

September 14, 2007|By KATE PRAHLAD | KATE PRAHLAD,Capital News Service

The number of private security guards employed in Anne Arundel County after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has increased nearly 170 percent, the highest percentage rise in the country, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released last week.

The number of security guards in the county rose from 379 in 2001 to 1,019 in 2002, then fell to 643 in 2003.

That increase was dwarfed by the total numbers of guards in other areas of the country - Los Angeles County, for example, added more than 5,000 security guards in the year after Sept. 11 - but officials said it is easy to understand why Anne Arundel had the biggest percentage increase.

"If you look at Annapolis, it has a pretty top-security profile," said David Hiles, an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "It's on the water, it has the United States Naval Academy and the state capital, so it's a place where people have to be serious about security issues."

Annapolis and the county as a whole demand a high level of security, said Alexis Henderson, spokeswoman for Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.

"I can tell you the county is home to the Baltimore-Washington [Thurgood Marshall] International Airport, the National Security Agency headquarters, as well as Fort Meade, one of the largest military bases, the Naval Academy and eight of the 10 top defense contractors," Henderson said. "So it's not surprising that we had a big jump here."

Henderson said the number of defense and security technology companies in the county also increased after Sept 11, which probably helped drive the demand for guards.

Hiles and BLS economist Anne Lise Almira knew from personal experience with ubiquitous guards at X-ray machines and mounted security cameras that "huge security boosts" after the terrorist attacks were not limited to their office building. So they decided to look for hard numbers.

Almira, who wrote the report, tracked the growth in the number of private security guards using data that employers are required to give to the state for unemployment insurance purposes The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation generally mirrored Almira's numbers, reporting 980 security guards employed in Anne Arundel County in 2002. The department estimates that the number will continue to grow, but more slowly, to 1,220 by 2012.

Jack Shugars, human resources manager for Graham Security Services in Anne Arundel County, said employment in the security industry "comes and goes."

"Six months ago, we were averaging 450 hours a week and couldn't hire enough people," he said. "Then, all of a sudden, that trend up and ends."

Shugars said some sites also drop security service when threats start to dissipate, but "they see spikes again, after the criminal element comes back, and then they call us back in. "Nationally, security employment dropped off in 2003, but has since grown to be "roughly in line with what they might have been" without the post-Sept. 11 increase, the BLS report said.

Four of the 10 most populous counties in the nation had the largest increases in the number of guard jobs. Los Angeles County reported an increase of 5,071, or 16.6 percent. New York County was fourth, with an increase of 1,180, or 5.7 percent.

"When you compare us to Los Angeles, the numbers are minuscule," Henderson said. "I mean, they hired over 5,000 new guards, but our own increase makes sense given the climate and the type of businesses that are here."

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