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Buying Extra Eyes, Ears With Private Security

March 14, 1991|BRIAN ALEXANDER

Some communities, especially apartment and condominium complexes, hire private security firms to patrol or stand watch over gated entries.

Typically, the firm will provide unarmed guards who serve as extra eyes and ears. They call in police when they see trouble and rarely arrest criminals.

Although rates for security services will vary widely depending on the area served and the conditions, a typical service might include two to four stops at a residential complex by a patrol car for $7 per stop.

A stop usually consists of a drive through the area lasting about 15 minutes as the patrolling guard spotlights particular sites. A standing guard usually costs $9 an hour or more.

Rancho Santa Fe is a community with private security more like a police force. Although served by the Sheriff's Department, the area within the covenant is also guarded by its own security patrol.

The patrol, which costs residents about $435,000 a year, is armed and will respond to calls. This patrol is more likely to arrest a criminal. It even obtained approval recently for the purchase of bullet-proof vests, although shoot-outs in the wealthy enclave are uncommon.

"It can take the sheriff a while to get here," patrol chief Matt Wellhouser said.

But Wellhouser stressed that the force's main role is to augment the sheriff and provide a highly visible deterrent. That deterrent seems to work. Rancho Santa Fe has averaged about 53 burglaries per year over the last five years, about 40% fewer than communities of similar size.

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