Hotel security has been a subject that has been featured prominently in many
news outlets lately. However, most hotels take security very seriously, and in
a time when nearly every hotel operation must run as cost effectively as
possible, there are ways to efficiently run a security operation.
Anthony Roman, a private investigator in New York City and a veteran in hotel
security, has seen a lot of different types of security operations at hotels. When
asked what the main keys to creating and maintaining a secure environment for
hotel guests, the former Helmsley Hotels security administrator and personal
bodyguard for the high-profile couple Leona and Harry Helmsley, says, “It’s not
what you’d expect.”
Roman points out that the main risks to hotel safety—as in just about any
public environment—involve accidents to hotel guests and staff. Now head of the
firm Roman & Associates, Roman says there must be risk management awareness
and implementation by executive management. “The major risk that needs to be
evaluated is what is the most common risk—accident risk for the guests and the
staff,” he says. “The security department should be trained and able to
determine whether or not there is compliance with state and local safety
regulations. That prevents civil fines and bad media.
To do that, Roman emphasizes that the security staff has to be up to the
task. “You need credentialed and trained security staff,” he says. “Many hotels
rely on individuals who have had some experience at other hotels and retired
police officers. But, because they were police officers doesn’t mean they’re
trained in hotel security management. They have general police training. The
training needs to be geared toward a specific environment and securing that
unique environment—which in this case is a domicile for transient guests.”
Training a Security Team
Ensuring that the security staff is up to the task starts at the top, Roman
says. “It starts with the director or vice president of security,” he says.
“The risk management assessment relative to what incidents have happened in the
past should be studied. [Often, insurance carriers maintain this type of
information if the hotel doesn’t have an existing database.]” In other words,
if there is a database of any incidents documenting accidents or crime of any
type to a particular hotel, it needs to be assessed on a regional basis to
determine the problem areas and the risks. Roman says you can implement the
proper training and policies and procedures to combat those risks.
“Simply hiring retired police officers and developing a minimal policies and
procedures is a hit-or-miss proposition,” Roman says. “There should be distinct
protocols to follow in virtually every circumstance. The security department
has to have an emergency response protocol for accidents, illnesses, crime, and
Where does the training come from? One source is specially trained security
consultants, but Roman points out it can be accomplished internally as well.
“It starts with hiring the proper security directors who have been properly
trained,” he says. “They should have training with various police departments
as well as hotel crimes, disaster response, crime scene preservation, powers of
observation, proper equipment utilizations, and, of course, the law. They must
be trained in questioning and detention.”
Despite best efforts, crimes may occur on any given property. Once a crime
has been committed, what should hotels do to investigate or aiding victims.
“Attend to the victim first,” Roman emphasizes. “Is there injury? Is there some
trauma that needs medical attention? That’s first and foremost.”
Once a security officer comes to the scene of a crime, a security officer
needs to run through a particular assessment to determine if a victim is
injured and then determine if the trauma includes emotion turmoil. Are they
able to relate facts of the crime?
Roman says once the victim is attended to the scene of an accident or crime
needs to be secured. “If it’s in a room, lock it. If it’s in an open common
area, a security officer needs to be posted there until the scene can be
photographed or videotaped, appropriate measurements are taken, and information
is gathered. And, if the nature of the crime or accident requires law
enforcement, the scene must be preserved up until the time they respond and
they are in control of the scene.”
But the hotel’s involvement shouldn’t end there. “The report of the incident
needs to be documented as soon as possible, as soon as practical, while the
information is still crisp in the security officer’s mind,” Roman says. “The
report should follow a protocol format and specific information should be asked
and answered in the report, including a narrative section.”
Protecting Against Internal Theft
Some hotels have hundreds, even thousands of employees, depending on their
size. So how can a hotel protect itself against employees who may be more
interested criminal activity than their work duties?
“It’s a layered method of deterrence, beginning with the application process
for hiring,” Roman says. “Most often, the least expensive method of background
checks would be checking credit reports and checking for past criminal
“Depending on the level of access an employee has to goods and service, the
level of intensity of the background investigation should match,” he continues.
“Individuals who have a more fiduciary responsible—including white collar
employees—should undergo a more rigorous and in-depth background check.”
He also points out that the policies and procedures for background
investigations should comply with federal, state, and local labor laws.
Beyond the hiring process, security teams should develop basic relationships
with department heads and supervisors as well line personnel to develop better
streams of information with regard to any possible internal crime.
He says data analysis is particular useful in determining internal crime.
“Internal crime is repetitive,” Roman says. “It happens in bursts, it happens
in a particular rate. There is determined modus operandi which is virtually
common. I see very little shift in it since the 1970s. Things can be tracked in
a simple Excel document. Information can be correlated and a hypothesis can
then be developed as to where the internal criminal activity is happening.”
One crime that is become more pervasive in our society is identity theft.
There have been a number of reports singling out hotels as a prime prospect of
identity thieves recently. “That falls within both security and IT,” Roman
says. “You need fully monitored firewalls, encrypted software, updated
anti-virus, and equally important, but often neglected are the policies,
procedures, and training for the personnel handling privacy-sensitive
Roman says a person’s name, address, and dates that they were at a hotel are
considered private information, but they alone are sufficient information a
computer criminal to put together a profile of a guest.
“The policies and procedures I’m talking about are someone simply calling up
a hotel and telling the front desk clerk ‘I lost my bill and can you send me
this information. I have two locations I live at one in the Caribbean and one
in New York, which address do you have?’ That’s the human factor in security
and that’s a training element,” he says.
When it comes to building and maintaining a secure environment at a hotel,
Roman says, there are a lot of avenues to consider and keeping up with the
small things are paramount to creating a solid security environment. “The devil
is in the details,” he says.