Author: The Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Sponsored by Signal 88 Security
By Rachel Zoch, PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff
Public safety is a passion for Mark McClure, even after retiring from the force. McClure worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years, the first 18 with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, then four years as an elected county sheriff.
While working as a police mentor in Afghanistan after retiring from the force and leaving the sheriff’s office, he met Rick Dunn, a former Georgia State Trooper, who was planning to launch a Signal 88 Security franchise back home.
“We both had the idea of buying one of these franchises,” said McClure. “He talked me into partnering with him, and he and I began that franchise in the Atlanta area.”
A network of support
In addition to the personal connection with a fellow Georgia LEO, McClure found the Signal 88 business model appealing in that it provides experienced officer-operators with administrative and sales support.
As a sheriff, he oversaw a full-service law enforcement agency of 84 officers handling everything from animal control to investigations to the county jail facility. That managerial experience definitely came in handy for the franchise, but he and his partners also needed expertise in sales, hiring and other core business functions.
“Every police officer is a good operator, but there are other skills that are needed to run a business. Some people have those skills, some don’t,” said McClure. “But with the help of a franchise back office like Signal 88, we started off with access to HR and training in hiring processes, invoicing and other skills needed to run a business.”
Signal 88 also provides marketing support and connections to national partnerships to help franchises build their client bases. With that support, McClure and his partners have expanded their business and now operate multiple franchises across the country.
A network of officers
McClure and his partners regularly recruit fellow former LEOs to help run the franchises, and many of their new hires are interested in becoming sworn police officers. He’s excited to help build the next generation of LEOs.
“I’ve helped several of those officers get their foot in the door of the local police department,” he said. “I’ve lost very good managers and lead officers to law enforcement – but the great thing about that is they are then policing in the neighborhoods where I have clients. They’re able to help me, and we have a good relationship.”
Helping people get into law enforcement to serve their own community is a blessing, says McClure, and one of his favorite things about the business. He is also grateful for the opportunity to help improve neighborhoods in transition.
“A lot of my clients are building new apartment complexes or opening new retail facilities in areas that have been pretty rough but are changing to more peaceful communities,” he said. “They hire us to come in and assist them with cleaning up that area. Our presence helps ensure peace of mind to them, their customers and their residents.”
A key benefit of private security is that it can be proactive rather than reactive, adds McClure, because the visibility of the officers and patrols deters crime.
“We’re highly visible, and we’re documenting what we do on that property,” he said. “We’re now augmenting patrol with video monitoring, where we view the camera systems on the property at our office or at one of our dispatch centers for random video patrols. When we see something suspicious on video or a client or resident calls about a suspicious activity, we can dispatch a security officer to check it out.”
Working with local law enforcement
Signal 88 officers are also able to help law enforcement when investigations involve their clients. McClure is quick to point out that as private security, they are not investigators – but they can share valuable information.
For example, he says, his officers were able to identify individuals who had been loitering on a client’s property. When those individuals were later suspected in criminal activity down the street, the security officers shared that identification with police, who were able to locate their suspects.
“We have a very good relationship with the local law enforcement in all the areas where we work,” he said. “That’s one of the first things that we do. I want to reach out and make that relationship quickly so we can help each other. It’s very easy to work hand-in-hand with them.”
McClure also works with local law enforcement agencies to hire off-duty officers. That way his company provides the workers’ compensation and liability insurance, the client gets the benefit of a sworn officer on site, and the officer retains authority should he or she need to arrest someone.
Making a positive impact
McClure is proud of the impact his private security officers are making in the communities where they patrol.
“I see a great increase in a more peaceful environment when we are present,” he said. “You will see a good deterrence of crime activity in those areas. I’ve seen communities where we’ve been over the last eight or nine years in the Atlanta area that have totally changed.”
He’s also grateful for the opportunity to support disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Michael hit Florida in 2018. Signal 88 officers helped guard a pharmacy and other medical facilities that had been partially destroyed while those businesses worked to restore services.
“Within one week we were able to get those facilities back up and running, and that wouldn’t have happened without security,” he said. “I’m developing more of a need and a passion to go do more of that emergency assistance work.”
That kind of passion, McClure says, is needed to operate a successful private security franchise.
“There’s a definite need, and there is a definite success story waiting for you,” he said, “but you have to have that passion to make it happen. I didn’t have the money necessarily, but I had the passion. I had friends in the business that I depended on. And I built those relationships. That’s what you need – the ability to build relationships and the passion to make it happen.”