Security Guard Tips

Sharpen Your Senses: A Security Guard’s Guide to Detecting Suspicious Behavior

As a security guard, your primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of the people and property under your protection. One of the most critical skills you must develop is the ability to effectively observe your surroundings and detect suspicious behavior. By mastering advanced observation techniques, you can significantly enhance your ability to identify and respond to potential security threats. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the crucial aspects of effective observation and provide actionable steps to help you become a more vigilant and proactive security guard, ultimately contributing to public safety.

1. Establishing a Baseline

Objective: Understand the normal behavior and patterns of the environment.

Action Steps:

  1. Foot Traffic Patterns: Observe and document the typical flow of people at different times of the day or during specific events. Identify common entry and exit points and track the movement of visitors.
  2. Typical Interactions: Take note of regular interactions between staff, visitors, and vendors to distinguish suspicious behavior. Recognize usual customer service interactions versus unusual inquiries that may indicate surveillance attempts.
  3. Environmental Norms: Note noise levels, ambient lighting, and general atmosphere in the space. Pay attention to the usual state of maintenance (e.g., damaged doors, broken fixtures) to quickly spot sabotage attempts.

2. Spotting Anomalies

Objective: Identify behavior or situations that deviate from the established baseline.

Action Steps:

  1. Loitering or Surveillance: Watch for individuals who appear to be lingering without a clear purpose, especially near restricted areas. Note individuals repeatedly scanning or photographing security measures, exits, or surveillance cameras.
  2. Unusual Interest: Be aware of people showing unusual interest in security protocols or staff schedules. Look out for individuals asking questions that seem out of place or trying to access unauthorized areas.
  3. Behavioral Changes: Pay attention to sudden changes in demeanor, such as nervousness, agitation, or frequent glances over the shoulder. Be alert for people making quick or repetitive adjustments to clothing or bags, possibly to conceal weapons.

3. Behavioral Indicators of Suspicious Activity

Objective: Recognize specific behaviors that indicate potential security threats.

Action Steps:

  1. Pre-Attack Indicators: Look for signs such as excessive sweating or heavy breathing not justified by physical activity or weather, repeated adjustments of clothing (jackets, belts, or waistbands), and avoiding eye contact or frequently scanning the surroundings.
  2. Surveillance Indicators: Be aware of individuals taking photographs or videos of security measures or sensitive areas, making multiple visits without a clear purpose, or over-dressing to blend in.
  3. Evasion Tactics: Pay attention to people using aliases, false documents, or providing inconsistent stories, as well as attempts to distract security personnel by creating disturbances elsewhere.

4. Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Objective: Understand body language cues that suggest malicious intent.

Action Steps:

  1. Body Language Cues: Look for rapid hand movements (fidgeting with pockets, belts, or concealed items), clenched fists (indicating readiness for aggression or fight-or-flight response), and aggressive stances (standing too close, leaning in intimidatingly, or pacing).
  2. Facial Expressions: Be aware of forced or exaggerated smiles, gritted teeth, darting eyes, grimaces, or contorted facial expressions indicating stress or discomfort.
  3. Gait and Posture: Pay attention to stiff posture, walking too slowly or too quickly, an unusual gait, or individuals trying to blend in by mimicking the posture or behavior of others.

5. Use of Technology in Observation

Objective: Enhance observation with technological tools.

Action Steps:

  1. CCTV Monitoring: Position cameras to cover blind spots, entry/exit points, and high-traffic areas. Monitor camera feeds regularly and adjust angles to follow suspicious individuals.
  2. Communication Devices: Use radios, walkie-talkies, or secure messaging apps to relay information promptly. Maintain clear and concise communication using agreed-upon security codes.
  3. Screening Equipment: Utilize metal detectors, baggage scanners, and handheld scanners to identify concealed weapons or contraband. Ensure screening personnel are well-trained and can distinguish between benign and suspicious items.

6. Clear and Accurate Reporting

Objective: Provide detailed, precise information in incident reports.

Action Steps:

  1. Follow S.A.L.U.T.E.: Size (estimate the number of individuals involved and their physical build), Activity (describe specific suspicious behavior or actions), Location (provide the exact location and movement direction), Uniform/Description (note clothing, accessories, and distinctive features), Time (record the time the activity was observed), Equipment (list any equipment or weapons involved).
  2. Create a Clear Timeline: Document the sequence of events chronologically for clarity. Include the time each observation was made, the actions taken, and by whom.

7. Continuous Improvement and Training

Objective: Foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Action Steps:

  1. Regular Debriefings: After every incident or training exercise, debrief with the team to discuss what was done well and what could be improved.
  2. Mock Scenarios: Conduct regular training sessions with simulated scenarios to reinforce observation techniques. Encourage guards to report and analyze their findings during these exercises.
  3. Knowledge Sharing: Share insights and best practices within the team to standardize effective observation methods. Maintain a shared database of incident reports for pattern analysis and training purposes.

Practical Application: Case Study

A security guard at a large shopping mall noticed a man loitering near the entrances and frequently adjusting his waistband. Despite trying to blend in, the man’s darting eyes and rapid hand movements indicated possible concealment of a weapon. The guard reported his observations, and mall security apprehended the individual before any incident could occur. He was found to be carrying a firearm without a permit, and further investigation revealed he intended to rob a jewelry store.


Mastering advanced observation techniques empowers security guards to become more proactive and effective in their roles. By establishing a baseline, spotting anomalies, recognizing behavioral indicators, utilizing non-verbal communication skills, leveraging technology, and providing clear and accurate reporting, security guards can significantly reduce security risks and enhance the safety of the environments they protect. Continuous training and improvement are essential to staying ahead of potential threats and ensuring the highest level of security.

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