The park, run by the Fairbanks North
Star Borough, has security patrols through a
contract with Securitas. Guards make regu-
lar patrols through the park. Park Manager
Donnie Hayes says the goal isn’t to eliminate
vandalism, which is “basically impossible.”
In Anchorage, Securitas works with the city
of Anchorage to oversee the local Safety Pa-
trol and a sleep-off facility for inebriates near
the jail. In November 2017, the company also
was awarded a short-term contract to oversee
an overnight homeless shelter at a community
soup kitchen, which gets some of the city’s most
vulnerable residents off the frigid winter streets.
Led by account manager Jason Cates, the
company set up procedures to ensure the residents were cleared medically and kept safe
in the shelter, which hosted about sixty-five
residents nightly. The program was a success
and Securitas’ contract was extended.
“The homeless issue brings a whole new
set of unique issues for our staff to handle,”
Koehler says. “They deal with the mental ill-
ness some of these men and women bring to
the alcohol issues.”
It isn’t uncommon for staff working with
the Anchorage homeless population to use
life-saving measures such as CPR or a defi-
brillator, Koehler says. The existence of the
warming center is also important.
“The service we provide at the warming
center literally saves lives almost daily,” he
says. “Due to extreme temperatures, if one is
homeless, they would die out in the elements
overnight without having a warm place to
Spectrum of Security
Securitas employees in Alaska include armed
and unarmed security officers, emergency
medical technicians, supervisors, lead officers, and account managers, says Koehler.
They protect properties from theft, vandalism,
and trespassers, as well as watching for and re-
porting suspicious individuals. They also will
escort people to safety in the event of a threat,
such as from a disgruntled ex-employee.
Securitas employees also do security for
cruise ships, including Transportation Secu-
rity Administration tasks such as screening
passengers and luggage through metal detec-
tors. Others work with the state of Alaska to
transport people in the court system to and
from hospitals or other facilities. Other Secu-
ritas employees are emergency medical techni-
cians that work for a client on the North Slope.
“Our officers deal with anything from
identifying potential safety issues to dealing
with active shooter situations,” Koehler says.
“They are specially trained to handle a wide
variety of situations.”
One situation Zachary Alsterberg and
William Sera, who own the franchise for Signal 88 Security in Anchorage, have noticed
is an uptick in property crimes such as vandalism, petty theft, and vehicle theft since the
passage of state legislation two years ago that
removed criminal punishment for such acts.
“The thing that has been plaguing Anchorage for the last year or so has definitely been
the relaxed criminal punishments,” Alsterberg says. “It’s kind of tied the hands of law
enforcement and private security agencies
like ours. A lot of people know there’s not
much that’s going to happen if they walk outside a grocery store with $200 worth of groceries. They basically get a slap on the wrist.
Vehicle theft also has been very, very large.”
Coordinating with Law Enforcement
Alsterberg says Signal 88, which employs thirty
to thirty-five people, typically works with com-
mercial, multifamily residential, and construc-
tion companies. They maintain a respectful,
professional relationship with law enforcement.
“If we show up to one of our clients’ prop-
erties and the police are there, we’ll assess the
situation and see if we can assist in any way,” he
says. “We personally feel there’s a large differ-
ence between private security and law enforce-
ment. We never want to overstep or abuse any
power—power that we don’t feel we really have.”
“We’ve always had a very good relationship
with the local law enforcement here,” Alster-
berg says. “We’ve been doing this since 2010 and
we’ve always kind of prided ourselves on being
the company that doesn’t call for non-common-
sense reasons. We make sure that when we do
call and do ask for assistance from law enforce-
ment that it’s for a legitimate reason.”
As a result, he says, law enforcement seems
to respond more quickly when a Signal 88 em-
ployee calls, especially in one of the high-traffic
areas of Anchorage in which they have clients.
“They know when we call, there’s usually a
very good reason for it.”
Alsterberg and Sera both have deep roots in
Alaska and spent time in the military before
going into the security business. Sera met one
of the company’s early franchisees while he
was in the military and was impressed by his
success, so he and Alsterberg decided to open
their own Signal 88 Security franchise in
2010. The company recognized the Anchor-
age franchise as its most-improved in 2017.
“We just worked on developing relation-
ships with clients we’ve had for a while, find-
ing out what they need in their communities
and how we can protect them,” Alsterberg says,
noting they specialize in patrol-based services.
It takes a particular type of employee to
work successfully as a security officer. John
Rambo types don’t wash.
“We really look for somebody with customer
service skills,” Alsterberg says. “Anybody can
be taught the security aspect of it. But we want
somebody who’s going to be able to give a good
customer service approach. Somebody who
can take a situation, understand what’s going
on, and get the situation to go the way that they
want it to and absolutely not have any type of
authority or power position. People who have
even a law enforcement-style approach working
with our company typically don’t last too long.”
Security jobs can give workers a chance to
see places and events that they might not be
exposed to in other walks of life, says Gardner of B&G Security Guard.
Gardner says he started out doing security in local parking lots before taking hotels,
restaurants, and entertainment venues as clients. Kulis Air National Guard Base was a big
client until the facility reverted to state ownership in 2011. B&G has provided security for
big movie premieres and for the event centers
The company also focuses on providing security for celebrities and entertainers touring
the state, Gardner says: Sarah Palin on her book
tour; “Ice Road Truckers” television shoots;
Gladys Knight; Stanley Cup winner Scott Go-mez; Senator Mark Begich; actor George Cloo-ney; the Beach Boys; and jazz legends Boney
James and Nagee, among many others.
“Some of the guards got a chance to see
parts of Alaska that they would have never
seen,” Gardner says. “We went to all different
areas of Alaska. It was a great experience.”
“We’re here to help out whenever somebody
needs somebody to help,” Alsterberg says.
“We’re not interested in creating a huge problem
if there isn’t one. We enjoy developing solutions
for our clients and making sure they’re cared for
the best way they can be. And if they need some-
thing else, we hope they come to us.” R
Julie Stricker is a journalist living near
Security guards often act as a deterrent for crime.