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Y2K fear was good business for private agencies

January 04, 2000

By Kevin Johnson, USA Today

usa_today_172WASHINGTON — The Y2K scare is over, but the profits reaped by private security companies are still pouring in.

Fear of computer failure - compounded by anxiety over millennium-related terrorism - prompted the dispatch of a small army of private security officer across the country.

In weeks leading up to New Year's Eve, there weren't enough bomb-sniffing dogs to meet demand.

All 35, 000 security guards employed by Pinkerton's of Westlake Village, Calif., Were working over the weekend.

Having merged with Securitas AB in March 1999, Pinkerton is part of the world's largest security company. Its annual revenue is about $3.5 billion.
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Guardsmark of Memphis set a new record every month in 1999 for hours logged by its 14, 000 guards. Last summer, the company reported annual revenue of more than $300 million.

At T&M Protection Resources in New York, Vice President Robert Tucker said that revenue was up 300% over December 1998. A much smaller security firm by comparison, T&M reports from $10 million to $15 million in annual earnings.

Last weekend, T&M security guards and its kennel of bomb-sniffing dogs were dispatched to more than 50 locations throughout New York City in preparation for the new millennium. "The demand was like nothing I've seen before," tucker said.

Typically, the company's services are requested by large corporations. However, for the past month, clients have included museums, hospitals, cargo storage facilities and underground parking lots.

"The protection of underground parking facilities is a big issue in New York," Tucker said.

"We have great confidence in law enforcement. But there are a lot of demands out there."

Late last week, just before the new year began, prospective clients were still calling to inquire about the availability of bomb-detecting dogs.

"They were offering us double what we charged to cancel existing contracts and take on new business," Tucker said.

Even without those offers, T&M's fees are substantial.

Assigning bomb dogs at one facility T&M declined to identify for the duration of New Year's weekend was expected to cost one concerned client $30, 000.

But cost didn't seem to be an issue for most companies and individuals seeking security help at the eleventh hour.