Jon Tavares is one of 15 security workers in Hawaii designated a certified protection professional.

Security company gets
tough on professional

Jon Tavares

>> Title: Vice president at Star Protection Agency in Hawaii

>> Recognition: Recently awarded the designation of certified protection professional by the Professional Certification Board of American Society for Industrial Security International, based in Alexandria, Va.

What does this designation mean?

The American Society for Industrial Security is a professional organization of security managers. It's an international organization, recognized worldwide. The designation was instituted to recognize and standardize expertise in the field. You need to have nine years in the industry or seven years and a bachelor's to qualify for the program. You send in transcripts and a resume and once they've certified that information you have two years to pass a comprehensive exam covering all aspects of security management. They give you three chances in two years to pass the exam. I was fortunate to pass on the first try. We've got a half dozen folks at Star Protection who are eligible. Our goal is to have all of them qualify and then take and pass the examination this year. Two other Hawaii security companies have people with the designation. There are 15 people certified in the state altogether. One works at American Savings Bank, and several of the hotel security directors are certified.

What kinds of changes have you seen?

There's a lot more attention given to security post-9/11. There've been calls for more consistent standards in the field of contract security. What we're trying to do at Star Protection is really raise the level of professionalism within the industry. Where you've got to start that with is wages. People want the lowest-cost security that they can get, but that means not hiring the quality of people you can get at a higher wage. When you get into high-end buildings and government accounts, those tend to be the ones who will pay for better security. One of things that tends to surprise people is the role of new technology in the industry. Our guards use scan wands to report their work routes. Those reports become very paperwork intensive, and to show them to a client becomes cumbersome. We put ours on password-protected Web pages so our clients can monitor the service they're getting from us online.

Right after Sept. 11 there was a jump in demand for security services, has that demand continued?

The interesting thing in Hawaii was that increase was counteracted by the downturn the economy took. So we saw customers cut back on security services. In several cases, it has not returned to pre-9/11 levels.

Most security issues seem to break down into two categories, protecting property, either from theft or damage, and protecting people. Which is the tougher category to address?

Certainly the more important category is people. Property can always be replaced. But while you need to have emergency procedures, evacuation procedures and plans to deal with violent encounters, those things are less common. The things we see day to day are the property issues. Because those things are more common, they are more focused on sometimes.

Are there things the average business can do to boost security without spending a fortune?

Like anything, you get what you pay for. But paying attention to the basics will go a long way. What are the access points? Do you have sturdy doors with sturdy locks? What is your window situation? You'll see the neighborhoods with the bars on the doors where the businesses have learned they need those. Companies need to pay attention to how their business relates to the surrounding environment.

The conventional wisdom is security guards are rejected police officers, is there any truth to that?

No. There are a lot of former police officers in the security industry. It's a common career path for retired police officers. But there are different issues in security work than in police work. You need to be customer-service oriented.

Inside Hawaii Inc. is a conversation with a member of the Hawaii business community who has changed jobs, been elected to a board or been recognized for accomplishments. Send questions and comments to

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