BEIRUT: Browsing through online offerings of protection equipment and services reveals a veritable military armory at the fingertips of those who need it.
Armored personnel carriers, riot control vehicles, bulletproof vests, personal prison equipment, bomb detection and jamming equipment, retaining walls and razor wire fill page after page of the country’s multitude of security service companies’ websites.
As the Syrian crisis has dragged on for nearly two years and after an uptick in abductions and assassination attempts have raised the specter of instability in Lebanon, demand for security services has surged, according to those in the industry. But few people are aware of the massive cost of full personal security, and the purchase of their services remains limited to a small section of the wealthy elite.
“There is lots of demand, especially from Syria,” said Capt. Sami Zod from Zod Security.
“They don’t expect such amounts,” Zod said. “If you really want to protect yourself at a good level it is expensive,” he said.
Buying an armored car or temporary close-protection service alone is more for appearances than it is for safety. For any of the personal protection services to be effective someone concerned about their safety has to have round the clock protection and the cost for that skyrockets quickly.
Protection experts agree total security can’t be provided in an apartment-style housing so full protection starts with a house, sufficiently removed from a city to protect from possible attacks.
A guard room and guard will cost around $50,000. Roadblocks, barbed wire and bomb detectors will ring up an additional $90,000.
After home protection, an armored car, outfitted with plating that can withstand the highest caliber of weapons on Lebanese streets, costs a minimum of $150,000.
In all, experts say that the cost of protecting someone from the variety of abduction, assassination and gunmen threats that are present in Lebanon skyrockets to around $500, 000 in addition to the yearly expense of guards and armed bodyguards.
That cost puts real protection out of the reach of most. Despite a steady rate of inquiries from individuals about buying security services given last year’s spike in abductions and armed clashes, the main clients of the personal protection industry remain the political elite who have loads of cash from foreign governments or personal fortunes.
“All kinds of protection and security services are requested from us starting from static guards to close-protection details and especially drivers with evasive techniques and driving diplomas for armored cars,” said Pierre Georgiou, general manager of ProSec security.
“Usually companies, and especially foreign companies, are our clients and they can afford it,” he said.
The same holds true at a number of other security agencies, and even with the demand from organizations and embassies for equipment and guards, demand often doesn’t materialize into large invoices.
If a client can afford the cost of personal protection they often have outside funding that will ship in cars and equipment, leaving guards and training as the main service provided for in Lebanon.
“It’s not the market we expected, the people who need such equipment go to the outside,” said Zod.