Background Checks Are The Best Of All Security Measures

June 21, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Pre-employment screenings are more vital to a company’s security than sharp barbed-wire fences and closed-circuit video systems, as internal thefts are more common than break-ins.

Often, however, facility managers may not have a say in whether firms conduct background checks on job applicants, or how deep those screenings go. But maybe they should.

“The biggest problem that we have is who we allow into our buildings and how we control that,” said John Kendall, president of local security firm DuHadway, Kendall & Associates Inc.

“We can control that by access-control systems, card systems, biometrics, iris scans, keys or nothing. We have every range imaginable,” he added. “We always tell our clients to focus on who they’re letting in and how they’re getting in.”

Next to nothing, keys are typically the worst way for a facility manager to control access to a company’s building. Keys are easily duplicated or lost, meaning that locks frequently must be changed and new keys issued.

Kendall said a better method of controlling access is by using cards, especially those that carry a photo of the cardholder. Access cards can be quickly reprogrammed if one is lost or stolen, and are less costly to reissue.

“We encourage all of our clients to get rid of keys all together, not have any keys other than for their desk drawers or maybe their private offices. As soon as one key is lost, the whole system is obsolete and you have to re-key again,” said Kendall.

“What we recommend, and what most of our clients are using, is some sort of card access, which runs about 40 cents to $3 for the actual cost of a card and can be programmed or deprogrammed in seconds.”

But Kendall emphasized that the best security step a company can take is to conduct thorough background checks on job applicants.

“In terms of people breaking into our clients, that is a very rare phenomena. What is very common is when our clients hire people who commit crimes. Unfortunately, the biggest threat we have, in terms of security, is who we hire,” he said.

“We encourage our clients to screen who they hire, a criminal-background screen and other methods of pre-employment screening. Then give them an access card and should they leave (the firm) for any reason, deprogram it instantly.”

DuHadway Kendall conducts criminal and credit checks as part of its service to clients. The company also offers HonorLine, a hotline program that allows a client’s employees to confidentially report suspicious acts or outright crimes that occur on company property.

But the first step DuHadway Kendall takes with a new client is to conduct a security survey of a site, better known in the business as an environmental design. The firm assesses the building, the property and the existing security system, noting the positives and pointing out areas that need improvement.

“We look at the design of the property, where it has deficiencies and then make recommendations,” said Kendall. “Some can be resolved by redesigning the property, some by adding security technology or by maybe changing the ingress-egress areas. There are a variety of things. But the point is, we do a site-specific security survey.”

Kendall said the problem most commonly found from his surveys center on access to and from the site. And not so much as to how people come and go, but how items get in and out. A lack of security in this area can lead employees to steal goods from the site and contribute to a company’s losses.

Again, Kendall said this is where background checks can be useful, as these help a company err on the safe side and control risk.

Human resource directors who may shiver at the mere thought of background checks, should note that using screening techniques does not keep a company from building a strong workforce — even when a tight labor market exists. Kendall said that only about 5 percent of the potential employees his company has screened for clients were rejected after the criminal checks were done.

“The point is, you’re still able to hire 95 percent of the people you want to hire,” he said. “What we have done is keep 5 percent out, that’s 5 out of every 100, that would have probably been a danger to have employed them.”

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