Special Reports

Security firm finds niche at PSU frats

When the governing body of Penn State's fraternities toughened the enforcement of party rules in December, it meant new business for a security firm that has been in the area since 1992.

Pittsburgh-based St. Moritz Security Services operates in 20 states, the District of Columbia and the Canadian province of British Columbia. It had $48 million in gross sales in fiscal 2007, its Web site says.

Since the Interfraternity Council passed a new social monitoring program, St. Moritz has been busy deploying employees throughout the week and on weekends to all 49 fraternities.

Roving patrols are sent out from 10 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday to make sure social events are within council guidelines — for example, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages must be available, and signs for emergency exits and bathrooms must be posted.

Depending on how many fraternities are having socials, four to five two-man patrols could be sent out.

Thursday through Saturday nights, St. Moritz supplies the guards for the front and back doors of each fraternity that has an invitation-only party.

“Fourteen fraternities could be having a party. That’s two guards at each house, plus roving patrol. We usually have 30 to 36 guys out a night,” said Rick Payton, security consultant for all Pennsylvania St. Moritz branches.

The local office at 255 E. Beaver Ave. has 50 employees, most of whom work part time.

St. Moritz employees must be 18 years of age or older. Their basic training consists of reading and signing a handbook of rules, Payton said.

“We mostly just do on-the-job training,” he said. “And our guys are constantly being checked up on.”

At the fraternities, the front-door guard is in charge of the guest list and identification, while the back-door guard is to stop anyone from entering or from leaving with alcohol and can watch the party for rules violations.

Payton noted that the guards will stop anyone leaving with alcohol but are not bouncers.

“(The guards) are not there to verify age or to intercede with fights,” he said.

Payton also said the guards are not there to make friends. “We do not send same guard to same frat on a regular basis,” he said. “They are on a rotation so they don’t make friends with brothers and start stretching the rules.”

The costs are $16 an hour for each guard and $17.50 an hour for each roving patroller.

Max Wendkos, council president, said he couldn’t accurately predict what the overall fraternity spending would be.

According to Payton, employees working as guards take home $9 an hour and roving patrollers earn $10 per hour.

The Fraternity Purchasing Association, the supplies co-op involved in the contract, takes a percentage, and a percentage goes for liability insurance for St. Moritz employees.

“We may get less than 5 percent,” Payton said.

“Thus far, our experience with St. Moritz Security has been a positive one,” said Wendkos, a senior majoring in marketing and psychology. “I have been very encouraged by St. Moritz’s dedication to providing quality service.”

The firm also works with local hotels and restaurants.

During football season, Payton said, it works with the Ramada Conference Center at nights, “usually to monitor the halls and activity in the hotel to prevent problems that would disturb the guests.”

Red Lobster and Olive Garden are some local companies that call St. Moritz to provide a guard after closing if maintenance or repairs are being done.

St. Moritz also works alongside Penn State Police to provide a variety of services.

Nicole Morgan is a Penn State journalism student.