Following the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, a local firm is reinforcing the importance of security in places that could be at risk.
Kevin Belk, senior vice president of Grand Rapids-based DK Security, said the company helmed by CEO John Kendall will continue to provide private security at some of West Michigan’s largest event venues, including Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place, 20 Monroe Live and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
“As we see events around the world — take what happened, for instance (with the Las Vegas shooting) — there’s an increased focus on security, and it’s going to continue to grow, and that’s why we continue to grow,” he said.
Founded in 1995, DK Security offers uniformed security guards, armed security guards, executive protection, investigations, fingerprinting, background screening, event management, retail loss prevention and HONORLINE, an anonymous whistleblower’s hotline.
The company, which also has locations in Lansing and Detroit, had 2016 revenue of $10 million, up from $8 million in 2015, due to growth on the east side of the state and some new West Michigan contracts.
Belk, who retired as chief of the Grand Rapids Police Department in 2014, said the company’s “mainstay” is unarmed uniformed security, but it also has provided event management since Van Andel Arena opened in 1996.
Its entertainment security services include crowd control, bag searches, pat downs, metal detection, armed security, undercover agents, executive protection, access control and security consulting.
“We work with the client as to how many personnel they want (at events),” Belk said. “At the end of the day, they decide what they want to contract for. If, for any reason, we felt it was unsafe, we wouldn’t agree to the number. We work with the customer on adequate staffing for the venue.”
Belk said larger events, such as the record-breaking Kanye West and Paul McCartney tours at Van Andel last year, usually call for increased security.
“You have different concerts, different events, where the staffing levels can vary greatly,” he said. “(With) the Griffins, you have a crowd that comes and goes and the crowd is the same; it’s regular most nights. For concerts, you have a variety of people from throughout the state who have never been there before … so it changes. A lot of times, the promoters will dictate the number of event staff.”
He said the firm handles last-minute needs as part of its ebb and flow.
“We do a lot with temporary stuff, emergent needs,” he said. “A business will have a concern that may come up this afternoon, and we scramble to make sure we meet those needs.
“A police department is not in that position to provide that level of service and to provide customized service and put someone on-site for the duration.”
Belk said West Michigan has been fortunate not to have major violent incidents like those in other parts of the country, but the firm is keeping an eye on other problem areas.
“There’s also an increased level of concern regarding protests and the violent issues,” he said. “Employee problems have been there and still remain. But people are more responsive when they have a troubled employee they’ve terminated that they need to deal with.
“We’ve been fairly fortunate we haven’t had violent issues. Our company is there as a preventive force, but we have not had any violent encounters with our security officers.”
If it were to happen, DK Security would be ready, he said, tapping a pool of mostly ex-military, ex-law enforcement or criminal justice students.
“We comply first and foremost with Private Act 330, which governs private security in Michigan, but we go above and beyond that and run criminal history checks (on our guards),” Belk said. “For armed security, they complete the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), which is psychological testing.
“And for armed security, we provide firearms training, defense training.”
Belk said the company expects to hire 100 people at its three locations to bring its staffing levels up to 2,000, as it gears up to fulfill the next wave of contracts.
He said the firm’s biggest challenge is common to all companies in West Michigan: the need for qualified talent. The firm’s leadership makes a point of mentoring young criminal justice students who are interested in security and law enforcement jobs as a recruitment and retention tactic.
“Attracting quality applicants and getting the right people to fill our positions (is a challenge),” he said. “Pretty much everywhere you go, there’s a ‘help wanted’ sign up.”