On March 18, 1990, two police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and told security guards they were responding to disturbance.
One of the two security guards working that night, Rick Abath, allowed the cops in through the employee entrance.
As the officers approached Abath at his desk, they asked if anyone else was in the museum and to call them down.
Abath radioed the other security guard to return to the desk.
One of the officers told Abath that he looked familiar, that they may have a warrant for his arrest and to come out from behind the desk and provide identification.
Abath complied, stepping away from the desk where the only panic button to alert police was located.
The officer forced Abath against a wall, and handcuffed him, but Abath remembers that he was not frisked.
As the other security guard walked into the room, the officer turned him around and handcuffed him.
Once both security guards were handcuffed, the fake police officers revealed their true intentions to rob the museum and asked the guards to not give them any problems.
After handcuffing the two guards, the thieves stole 13 famous artworks by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Degas, walking away with artwork that today is valued at $500 million.
To this day, it remains the world’s biggest unsolved art heist.
Among many theories, some say it was a mafia job. Some investigators believe that it was an inside job and that the security guards may have been part of the heist.
At the time, Rick Abath was a 23-year-old Berklee College of Music dropout and a member of a struggling rock band.
He was moonlighting as a security guard at the museum. Abath admitted that, at that time in his life, he regularly drank alcohol and smoked pot and occasionally took LSD and cocaine.
He said he sometimes showed up for his midnight shift at the museum drunk or stoned, but that on the night of the heist he was sober.
Investigators believe Abath’s partying lifestyle at the time could have led him to meet the kind of people who might carry out such a crime, and they’ve pointed out that studies show a vast majority of museum robberies have been inside jobs.
In addition, Abath also made other curious moves prior to the heist.
He had just given two weeks’ notice to quit the security job and on the night of the robbery, about 20 minutes before the thieves arrived, Abath quickly opened and shut the door just before he replaced another security guard at the security desk.
Abath told investigators that was his way of double-checking that doors were locked.
Questions have also arisen about why Abath’s footsteps were the only ones picked up by motion detectors in a first-floor gallery where one of the paintings was stolen, even though the thieves tripped detectors in other areas.
Abath has always maintained his innocence, and he says he’s cooperated with the FBI, passing an FBI lie detector.
Abath now lives in Vermont and works in education and is not believed to be a suspect in the heist.
These days, private security is a $115 billion global business, which is only increasing with the on-going threats of terrorists attacks and workplace dangers.
The fact is, many police departments in the U.S. hire contracted private security to work special events or other overtime shifts.
The reason is because it’s much cheaper to contract a security company than it is to pay police officer’s overtime.
The problem is, the majority of security guards in the U.S. don’t go through the same background check or training that police officers do.
With that being said, if you have a security guard at your work, your apartment, or anywhere you regularly interact with them or you need to hire one, here are things to keep in mind:
Inquire about the background check. If you work for a company that employees security guards, you should be able to ask the company if they have passed an extensive background check.
In most states, you can become licensed as a security guard by passing a very simply background.
Hopefully, the company you work for does a little more extensive background check, including prior employers.
My point is, if the security guard is walking around with a gun, keeping everyone safe, you should be able to find out if he is truly competent to do so.
I know that sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at the things I’ve seen in the private security world.
What are their qualifications. If you are depending on someone to provide security and safety, you need to know what their capabilities are.
For example, have they received specialized training in CPR, threat analysis, recognition of drug and alcohol abuse and sexual harassment recognition and prevention?
Basically, you want to know what their training is and what actions you can expect from them.
The problem is, in many states, you can work as an armed guard, as long as you have a concealed weapon permit.
In Utah, where I live, there is no live fire qualification to obtain a permit.
Therefore, you could have an armed security guard who has never fired the weapon they are carrying.
Will they physically intervene. Let’s say you live in gated community with a security guard or an apartment with a security guard.
You need to know if they will intervene when you need them most. If you experience a home invasion and they are alerted, will they help you?
Many security companies forbid their guards from physically stopping or intervening because of the liability.
In other words, if the bad guy is kicking you on the ground, the guard may not do anything since that is what their company tells them.
So, make sure to find out what they can or will do when things go bad.
Security guards are vital to protecting people and places all around the country and I think they are important.
But, just like anything in life, you need to make sure you’re getting quality people with quality training.