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on 27 February 2024

Security Guards vs. Watchmen: Which One Should You Hire

Security guards vs. Watchmen: Which one should you hire

Safeguarding your business or property involves a critical choice–should you opt for the vigilant ways of a traditional Watchman or embrace the comprehensive security provided by trained security guards?

When deciding between security guards and watchmen for your property or business, weighing their distinct roles and responsibilities is crucial. Understanding the distinction between security guards and watchmen is essential in tailoring security measures to specific contexts.

This article delves into the unique skill sets and responsibilities of both roles, offering guidance to help you determine the best fit for your security needs.

Security Guards

Security guards are individuals employed mostly by security companies to protect and secure various environments. They provide comprehensive security services to clients, ensuring a proactive stance against various security threats like theft, vandalism, or violence.

Their responsibilities often involve patrolling, monitoring security screens, and collaborating with other security personnel and management to maintain a secure environment. Security guards’ active, authoritative presence makes them a crucial asset in contexts where immediate response and intervention are paramount.

Duties of a Security Guard

Security guards play a pivotal role in maintaining the safety and security of various establishments. Their duties encompass a range of responsibilities, including:

  • Access Control and Verification: Ensuring authorized entry through identity verification.
  • Surveillance Operations: Monitoring video surveillance for any unusual activity.
  • Security Procedures: Implementing security measures such as metal detectors and bag checks.
  • Crime Prevention and Intervention: Preventing criminal activities and detaining suspects if required.
  • Education and Communication: Educating staff on security protocols and communicating with law enforcement when necessary.

Skill Set and Qualities of Security Guards

Toronto security companies are housed with successful security guards who possess a unique skill set honed through rigorous training and experience:

  • Judgment: Making informed decisions in challenging situations.
  • Technology Proficiency: Utilizing computers for data entry and report writing.
  • Communication: Effectively relaying information in high-pressure scenarios.
  • Observation: Constantly monitoring environments for safety and compliance.
  • Ethics: Upholding standards to protect individuals and property.
  • Physical Fitness: Being physically capable of various roles, from patrolling to responding to incidents.

Rigorous Training and Licensing

To become a security guard, it’s necessary to undergo rigorous training and acquire licensing. Candidates must complete secondary education through grade 12, although some provinces may accept completion in grade 11. While a bachelor’s degree is not mandatory, certifications such as Basic Security Training (BST) are essential.

Additional qualifications, such as Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) or Physical Security Professional (PSP), can enhance a security guard’s career.


Watchmen traditionally refer to individuals tasked with surveillance and observation duties. Watchmen may not undergo similar extensive training or have specialized skills for dynamic security challenges.

They typically focus on monitoring premises, detecting potential issues, and reporting observations rather than actively intervening in security incidents. They may suffice for low-risk environments or locations with limited security concerns.

Their role often centres on maintaining a presence and raising alerts if suspicious activities arise. However, it’s essential to recognize they might have a different training level or capabilities than security guards.

Duties of a Watchman

Watchmen, sometimes interchangeably called security guards, have a distinct set of duties focused on preventing illegal activities and maintaining a secure environment. Their responsibilities include:

  • Surveillance of Property: Watchmen are often assigned to guard properties during non-business hours, vigilantly monitoring for intruders and potential hazards like fire or water damage. Mobile watchmen conduct patrols, checking doors and windows to maintain security.
  • Deterrence of Crime: Beyond surveillance, they play a proactive role in deterring unlawful activities. They enforce employer policies, control building access, and conduct security screenings to prevent criminal activities like theft, vandalism, or arson.
  • Providing First Response: Watchmen are the frontline responders to incidents and emergencies on the premises. They take charge of situations, removing unauthorized individuals and promptly calling for additional assistance when needed.
  • Shift Administrative Duties: Administrative tasks, which include directing guests and maintaining activity logs, are part of a watchman’s responsibilities. Their approachability and knowledge make them the first point of contact for visitors, ensuring a secure and well-documented environment.

Toronto Security Company: Skill Set and Qualities of Watchmen

Watchmen, while sharing some skills with security guards, emphasize different aspects:

  • Vigilance: Staying alert to detect potential threats.
  • Enforcement of Policies: Ensuring compliance with employer’s security policies.
  • First Response: Quick and effective response to incidents and emergencies.

Security Guard vs. Watchman: Distinctions

When delving into the comparison between security guards and watchmen, notable distinctions emerge in their roles and authority, as follows:

Security Guard

  • Authority: Security guards possess the authority to detain or arrest individuals, a crucial capability when immediate action is required to maintain security.
  • Services: Their primary role involves providing active security services to clients, ensuring a proactive approach to potential threats.
  • Armament: Security guards may be armed or unarmed, depending on the level of security required for a particular setting.
  • Responsibility: Their responsibility extends beyond mere observation; they actively maintain a secure environment by responding promptly to security issues.


  • Authority: Unlike security guards, they cannot detain or arrest individuals. Their role is more observational and reporting-focused.
  • Services: Watchmen primarily provide surveillance services and focus on monitoring designated areas and reporting suspicious activity.
  • Armament: Typically unarmed, they rely on observation and reporting rather than direct intervention.
  • Responsibility: While responsible for detecting and reporting suspicious activity, their role is less hands-on when compared to security guards, with an emphasis on vigilance and observation.

Security Guards vs. Watchmen: Context Matters

The choice between security guards and watchmen becomes crucial in considering security in various settings. Context matters significantly in making this decision, but favouring security guards is prudent for several reasons.

Corporate Offices

In corporate office settings, the active protection provided by security guards is often preferable. With their comprehensive training, guards can deter potential threats, monitor security cameras, and respond effectively to alarms. Their ability to handle various security issues makes them a suitable choice.

Healthcare Facilities

Healthcare facilities demand a specialized security approach due to the sensitive nature of the environment. Security guards, with comprehensive training and the ability to manage varying security scenarios, are better suited to ensure the safety of patients, staff, and medical assets.

Residential Communities

Residential communities require vigilant security to safeguard residents and property. Security guards with active patrolling and immediate response capabilities instill a sense of safety and deter criminal activities within these communities.

Industrial Facilities

Security guards in industrial settings focus on protecting the premises from theft, ensuring the safety of employees, and responding to emergencies such as fires or accidents.

Events and Entertainment Venues

Events and entertainment venues demand a dynamic security approach, and security guards are at the forefront. Armed or unarmed, they manage access points, conduct crowd control, and swiftly respond to disturbances.

Security Guards vs. Watchmen: Choosing the Right Option

When considering the optimal security solution for your business or property, the best choice is security guards. One pivotal factor lies in the authority granted to security guards, who can detain or arrest individuals, offering a proactive layer of protection that a watchman lacks.

Security guards excel in their role by going beyond mere surveillance. They actively provide outstanding security services to clients, ensuring a comprehensive approach to safeguarding people and property.

In contrast, while valuable in their surveillance role, a watchman lacks the authority to detain or arrest individuals. Their primary responsibility revolves around reporting suspicious activity, making them a more passive component in the security framework. This limitation in authority and action may need to be revised to address immediate security threats.

Optimum Security: Your Trusted Toronto Security Company

As a leading Toronto security company, Optimum Security stands out for its commitment to delivering high-quality security services tailored to organizations of all sizes. With a rapidly growing presence in Metro Vancouver, serving BC, Alberta, and Ontario, we have earned recognition as one of the fastest-growing security companies.

Contact Optimum Security today by calling 604-644-9229 (BC), 780-995-9229 (AB), or 416-628-3393 (ON), or contact us here to fill out our online form for a comprehensive and proactive approach to safeguarding your assets.