Security officers are employed in a variety of settings, and help to protect private property or people. There are several types of security officers, each with a different responsibility or focus. Unarmed guards are primarily used as a deterrent to crime, but do not carry weapons. Uniformed armed guards provide a visible presence and are equipped to use deadly force, if needed. Surveillance officers often work behind the scenes to carefully monitor an area.
An unarmed security guard provides basic protection without carrying weapons, although they may be trained in basic self-defense tactics. The primary purpose of an unarmed guard is visibility, as a security officer in a professional uniform often helps to deter potential criminals. Unarmed guards use communication methods such as radios to alert additional authorities if suspicious activity occurs.
Other security guards are equipped to use weapons, including batons and firearms. In most locations, an officer must be properly certified and undergo specialized training before they are authorized to carry a gun. These types of security officers are employed in places where an armed robbery is probable, such as banks and jewelry stores. Some armed officers work for armored car companies, and protect shipments of cash to business locations.
Some security officers have extensive police training, and are in fact employed by law enforcement agencies as their main occupation. Many part-time guard positions are filled by police officers during their off duty hours. In many places, these individuals are permitted to wear their official law enforcement uniform and carry a duty weapon even when they are paid privately. The official-looking presence of these guards is common at many bars and nightclubs in large cities.
Both unarmed and armed security officers typically use visibility as an advantage, and help reduce crime simply by being noticed. Surveillance officers, in contrast, work behind the scenes and do not overtly make themselves known. These workers use video cameras and monitors to closely observe a location for suspicious activity. This type of surveillance is common in casinos, hotels, and shopping centers. Surveillance officers can move to confront a perpetrator if needed, or collect video evidence for a police arrest.
In some places, a variety of different security officers work together as a unified team. A large shopping mall, for instance, may employ uniformed guards in visible locations and also surveillance officers in an observation center. Teams of security guards can communicate using radios or phones and respond efficiently to threatening situations.