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Paws for effect: canines provide construction site security benefits

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by Peter Kenter

In a world obsessed with high-tech security, a professional security officer paired with a well-trained canine have a lot to offer says Robert Jonatschick, chief operating officer of ARC Protection Corp.
Paws for effect: canines provide construction site security benefits

With headquarters in Vancouver, the company operates throughout British Columbia and Alberta, offering a range of security services, including traditional security guards, mobile vehicle patrols and bike patrols.

Jonatschick's been involved with the security industry for 35 years, including canine security work with Canadian and American troops in Afghanistan.

He and a partner launched ARC in 2013. The company quickly expanded from two dogs to 24 and currently employs 75 people.

The most critical consideration for the company is the level of training and skill sets of dogs and human security officers. The majority of ARC's canine team are German or Belgian Shepherds. Dogs are almost all selected for training at a young age although occasionally the company accepts pre-trained dogs from police units that are downsizing.

"We train them in obedience and human scent detection," Jonatschick says.

"Each dog is matched with one handler and they are trained to work as a permanent team. They're also certified as a team by the Justice Institute of British Columbia's Private Security Industry Canine Program."

Construction sites and equipment yards continue to represent a large component of the company's security contracts.

"I won't quote on a potential construction site contract until I actually visit the premises," Jonatschick says.

"No two sites are the same and we never automatically recommend putting a canine unit on the site. The factors we need to consider are the size, geographic boundaries and layout of the site and any spaces that need to be covered by cameras or humans."

However, simply advertising that a site is protected by dogs acts as a deterrent.

"Given the choice between a site protected by dog patrol and one that is not, thieves will almost inevitably move to the next site," he says.

While cameras can do a good job of recording activity in a particular location, Jonatschick says that they don't often inspire respect from thieves unless used in conjunction with human response.

"If you have a human or human/canine team on site, they can respond instantaneously to anything unusual," he says.

"If the police department is busy, a call to a remote location can take a long time to answer. A mobile security officer could take from a half-hour to an hour."

In one case, Jonatschick recalls taking over a security contract at a site and receiving a request from the company supplying security camera service.

"One of their hard-wired cameras located on top of a pole had been stolen days earlier," he says.

"Nobody called us to report that a camera that they were supposed to be monitoring had gone black."

ARC security agents wear chest-mounted body cameras at all time, with live visual feeds available to clients. Images are date-stamped and teams are GPS tracked, so their routes are solidly documented.

The economics of the cost of security versus theft is particularly critical in construction.

"But I've talked to site supervisors who tell me that a human dog team is more expensive than camera surveillance, and that they can't reconcile the cost on a site that has experienced no incidents," Jonatschick says.

"The reason that they experienced no incidents is most likely attributable to canine security. If you experience a theft, it's not simply the cost of the item stolen, but the construction delays that replacing equipment entails. If someone climbs a crane, that crane will be out of commission for three to five days while it's inspected. If lines on hydraulic equipment are cut, it represents a huge monetary impact. Give the criminal element an hour of playtime and they can do a lot of damage and pack up a lot of valuable material and equipment."

He, notes that, contrary to TV crime dramas, professional security dogs don't knock down or attack intruders. They remain on leash and either pull the handler to a suspect's location, bark or take a defensive stand.

"There's no apprehension of the suspect allowed," he says. "When they corner a culprit, the dog's duty is to protect the handler."

Security dogs are never kenneled overnight.

"A dog goes home with its handler each night in a company vehicle designed for their comfort," says Jonatschick.

"They have a nice life."

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