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The Wild West of Pennsylvania's Security Industry

Posted on May 6, 2024

With few rules and little enforcement for those that do exist, Pennsylvania’s security industry puts guards and the public at risk, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, citing an “anything-goes Wild West approach,” that is a stark contrast to the true role of the industry – one that is supposed to protect.

As an example, the newspaper pointed to the experience of William Grant, a 52-year-old father of four. He was leaving a ShopRite with flowers he had purchased when he was confronted by a security guard. The guard accused him of shoplifting. When Grant failed to give back the flowers, the guard attacked him with a pocketknife. As it turned out, the guard had a criminal record of assault, something that should have disqualified him from that job.

Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states with no licensing requirement for security guards and, in terms of training, unarmed guards need no training at all, while armed guards need just 40 hours. The Inquirer report, to put that in perspective, shared that a Pennsylvania barber would need both a license and 1,250 hours of training. 

Additionally, while licenses are offered at the county and city levels, many security guards remain unaccredited. Only 167 agencies or individuals are licensed in Philadelphia, even though security ranks among the top 15 employment sectors in the city. Furthermore, armed guards working without a license apparently face no repercussions. Other inconsistencies include the fact that there is no standard for how such guards are titled – some call themselves state agents, while others call themselves private police - and there are no regulations or standards on the type of weapons can be carried by security guards.

As demand for security continues to escalate in Philadelphia with concerns about crime and retail theft, calls to create a statewide licensing system for the security industry continue to grow. 

If you were assaulted or injured by a privately contracted security guard, you do have legal options. Consider speaking with a top attorney in Philadelphia for negligent security lawsuits to discuss the next steps. Contact us to set a time to meet today.