A contingent of private security guards working in municipal garages has significantly impacted crime and cleanliness concerns in the facilities according to the Santa Monica Police Department.

Council approved an extended contract with Good Guard security last week following a six-month pilot program to replace the former company patrolling ten parking structures in the City’s downtown area in addition to the Main Library and Ken Edwards Center.

Staff said the pilot program proved successful, with a notable decrease in calls for police services at all parking structures, the Main Library, and the Ken Edwards Center. A comparison from January through May of 2022 to 2023 showed a decrease of 48% in calls for service and calls for service specific to theft from vehicles have decreased by 60%. Library staff noticed the impact of overnight security in stairwells, library grounds, and elevators.

The company’s presence in Santa Monica includes a paid supervisor who participates in SMPD’s Homeless Liaison Program bi-weekly meetings, monthly parking structure walkthroughs, and other meetings regarding maintenance, homeless outreach, and crime trends in the downtown area. SMPD said the online reporting provided by the company has assisted with collaborative efforts across multiple departments and staff said it has greatly contributed to improving the downtown cleanliness and public safety.

The City chose Good Guard based on price, ability, capacity, and skill to perform or provide services, and the character, integrity, reputation, judgment, training, experience, and efficiency of the company. At the time, the company’s technology and their customer-oriented approach were listed as positive traits.

Good Guard uses the “SilverTrac” guard monitoring system which provides GPS-based tracking capabilities. With this technology, designated City staff can access the system and look up the current location of guards as well as download GPS-based activity reports, showing the location of guards throughout their shifts.

Council extended the contract shortly after hearing from residents who want the city to do more to address crime and homelessness citywide. At the meeting, Councilman Phil Brock asked if the Good Guard program was working as envisioned and what could be done to improve it.

“I know we went through a variety of security services over the last three years and I’d like to know if this security company, this guard company, how they’re doing,” he said. “And we heard from a member of the public earlier tonight that said that the elevators were still filled with homeless people, the stairways were terrible, etc. When I’ve gone through the parking structures in the evening, I’m really impressed. I walked five floors of structure five in one night and Good Guard was in the stairwell, the lighting was drastically improved and it looked great. So I want to sort of see how you feel about the improved security if they’re improved, and where we are now,” he said.

SMPD Lieutenant Robert D’Andrea said there had been a drastic improvement in service with the implementation of Good Guard who were providing double the number of guards over the previous company Allied Security. He said the four-person team’s inclusion of a supervisor increased their effectiveness and the company’s integration with other services helped flag maintenance or other problems more quickly.

However, he said the original proposal was for a six-person team and while the current guards are working, the other two guards are still necessary for maximum impact.

“My opinion, I think six would be the optimal, four is working,” he said. “But the quality of these four is really good. We’ve had the same four guards, same supervisors since we started with Good Guard so they’ve really gotten to know the property and it makes a difference.”

The extension of the contract brings the total five-year value to $2.4 million. Staff have estimated it would take another $876,440 to increase the number of guards to six.

While Good Guard are working on behalf of the City directly, other organizations are also increasing their reliance on private security. Downtown Santa Monica Inc. announced plans to implement a stronger security guard presence in the area, transitioning $1.7 million away from its ambassador program to pay for a new company, Covered 6, to bring a mix of armed and unarmed guards to the Promenade.

Shoppers downtown had a mixed response to the idea of increased security downtown. While some said the proposals would make them feel safer, few said the presence of guards would make them more likely to shop in the area and some questioned the way armed security would alter the feel of the Promenade.

Council will have an opportunity to debate the cost of the guards as part of their larger budget discussion scheduled for June 27.


Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...