When you ask Matthew Brooks what he does for a living, he has a bit of trouble describing it. In short, he works at security service provider Fasda, managing its 150 employees who mostly patrol the city centre.
But there is so much more to it. Brooks spends his days in and out of Fasda’s Fairview headquarters, checking on the company’s street guards and responding to various “situations” that arise.
Brooks is a manager, but he’s also a 24/7 responder, he says, as he drives around in his patrol car, using his handheld radio to communicate with CBD supervisors.
Brooks started working at Fasda straight out of matric at St John’s. Even at that point, he knew he couldn’t just work in an office for the rest of his life.
Lucky for Brooks, the Fasda office isn’t the typical one: it’s a house with several patrol cars and trucks parked outside, constantly being washed and spruced up, and a band of retired patrol dogs pacing the property, barking at every passer-by.
Brooks has a desk and he works on a computer from time to time – but surrounding that desk are pictures of criminals who were caught by Fasda, and on that computer are confidential recordings of robberies and hijackings.
He pulls up a few of the videos from the security cameras outside its Commissioner Street office, and watches them with a sense of pride, pointing out which nuanced pieces of evidence in the video allowed Fasda to pinpoint the criminals and recover the vehicles.
Brooks says he shows the footage to police and, as in a recent hijacking, posts it to YouTube to make Joburg residents and media outlets aware of what is going on.
Transparency has always been a focus of Brooks: he posts pictures of suspects on the wall near street guards’ patrols (to the annoyance of the suspects) and keeps the @FasdaProtect Twitter stream up to date with pictures and reports of evictions, illegally occupied buildings, stolen weapons and shootings.
With a job that entails constantly being aware of, responding to and spreading the word of incidents in the CBD, Brooks doesn’t have a lot of time away from it.
“Your weekends are not your own. Your phone is always on you. Last month was the first time in five years I’ve taken leave.”
When you have your phone going off every few minutes – whenever an alarm goes off at Fasda’s clients, an alert pops up on his phone – other parts of your life will suffer, like family life. “Luckily, I had supportive parents who told me I could do whatever I wanted.” With three younger brothers, he is a natural leader, and a love of sports and an action-packed, adrenalin-filled day working in the security industry was a natural fit.
“You can feel the difference after five years.” It’s the type of job that a person can only do for so long because being on call 24/7 is, well, exhausting. Despite the “hectic lifestyle” of the job, he will definitely stay working in the industry for the rest of his life: it is a fast-growing one and employs more than 400 000 in South Africa.
Brooks says he is considering doing security consulting in the future; he is already doing some consulting in other African countries and in China.
Back in Joburg, the hectic schedule continues for Brooks: he could very well get called to a scene of an armed robbery on a Saturday night, because Fasda’s street guards aren’t tasked with actually dealing with the armed robbers, just to report the crime. “People who are equipped to deal with a problem deal with it. We never expect the guard to do anything, just to report it.”
That’s why Fasda keeps its area of concentration in the CBD, because, while in there, they are able to supply back-up in various forms: supervisors in patrol cars or motorbikes, police support and security camera footage.
If they send a guard to Sandton, they won’t be able to respond with back-up. If a guard is at risk, like last year when a guard was shot in the back while fleeing an armed robber, Fasda responds quickly. “We get there before every single emergency service.”
Brooks is also called to personally assist supervisors in cases of bad weather or accidents. In Killarney last week, an explosion caused by a geyser injured one person. Fasda responded because it focuses on any sort of threat to urban rejuvenation, which includes dirty streets or residential issues.
“It’s about urban upliftment and rejuvenation. At the end of the day, it’s more than security.”