2015 Security Professional of the Year Thomas Begg

Thomas Begg, Director of Security Life Safety with JLL at the AON Center, was the recipient of the 2015 Gold Circle Awards Security Professional of the Year.

How did you get involved in the commercial real estate industry? After my appointment to a four year term ended as Deputy and Acting Inspector General of the Chicago Transit Authority, I began networking for a position in the security industry.  Through a colleague I learned that an employment opportunity existed at the AON Center as Director of Security Life Safety.   The first interview was with Blackstone who leased and managed the building, but within a week of that interview, Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) took over management and leasing of the AON Center and a barrage of interviews with JLL ended with me being named Security Director of the AON Center.  In October 2004, I became a proud member of the new JLL management and leasing team at the AON Center.

What is the biggest security risk that commercial office buildings currently face? High-rise security is a tremendous challenge in the post 9/11 era.  My duties include protecting and maintaining a safe environment for 10,000 tenant employees and visitors daily to the AON Center.  The government alleges that there are Al-Qaida and now ISIS operatives, lone wolf offenders and suicide bombers in the U.S. ready to attack the Homeland whenever and wherever.   High-rise security personnel must remain on heightened alert and maintain increased security awareness in and out of their buildings.  Homeland Security states “If you see something, say something” and that is very, very important and needs to be stressed to tenants and visitors of commercial office buildings.  Security must be ever mindful of things that “don’t look right.” 

Throughout your membership with BOMA/Chicago, what experiences stand out the most to you? BOMA/Chicago was a tremendous source of information for high-rise security directors during the NATO Conference held in the City of Chicago. BOMA/Chicago scheduled many conferences and training sessions to prepare Security Managers, their buildings and staff against the possible protests and demonstrations during NATO’s daily activities. Due to these information sessions with BOMA/Chicago, AON Center Security was fully prepared to handle any incident that could have arisen. AON Center Security arranged to have 200 Chicago Police Officers staged in the building to be readily available should their presence be needed to protect the buildings in the East Loop area.  Attack dogs were also used to protect the outside perimeter of the building, parking garage entrances and the Dock area.  On one of the days of NAT0, 1,000 demonstrators proceeded west on Randolph from Grant Park to protest in front of Blue Cross Blue Shield, the AON Center and the Prudential Building. Chicago Police Officers mobilized from the AON Center and formed a gauntlet to protect property and individuals against civil unrest on Randolph. It was sad to see law enforcement officers spat upon and cursed at; however, Chicago’s Finest used tremendous restraint and maintained peace in the area.   

What would you share with other security professionals who are interested in joining BOMA/Chicago? Being a member of BOMA/Chicago is a must for security professionals, and I would highly recommend all security professionals to join BOMA’s Chicago Security Committee.  Networking with other security colleagues is a huge asset.  Sharing security-related issues and concerns with other security professionals is of critical importance.  The Committee convenes once a month to discuss security-related topics and allows high-rise security directors and managers to interact with federal, state and local law enforcement and emergency agencies. 

In addition to being named BOMA/Chicago's Security Professional of the Year, tell us about some of your professional accomplishments over the last few years. Some of my professional accomplishments include:

  1. Due to my 45+ years in law enforcement and corporate security, I established and maintained excellent liaisons with federal, state and local law enforcement and emergency agencies.  One such liaison is with Jose Santiago, the Chicago Fire Department Commissioner.  Commissioner Santiago approached me in early 2013 to determine whether JLL Management/Piedmont Ownership would be receptive to the CFD conducting a full-scale high rise fire incident response drill at the building.  This exercise was the first of its kind ever performed in the City of Chicago, involving 200 firefighters, 65 pieces of equipment and 20 paramedic units.  The exercise, performed in the City’s third tallest high rise structure, provided the CFD with a good working knowledge of the of building’s infrastructure in the event of a real fire emergency.  The AON Management Team was given an opportunity to practice its Security Life Safety procedures before, during and after the planned fire emergency.  This drill was a huge success for the CFD and AON Center Management/Ownership;
  2. BOMA’s 2010 International Office Building of the Year Award "TOBY" - Member of the AON Center Management Team;
  3. I was an original member of the 4Sight Committee that established a website for JLL Property Management for utilization of their Emergency Response Procedures that covered 50 human caused events as well as natural disasters.  This 4Sightez program is still being utilized today;
  4. Received the Illinois State Crime Commission Excellence in Corporate Security Award in 2007.

What would surprise our members most about you? In the 1970’s I was the Chicago Firearm & Heavy Weapons Instructor for the Illinois Bureau of Investigation (“IBI”), and during my tenure led the Chicago Office to yearly championships against the Springfield Office and resident agencies I still enjoy going to the shooting range and while my eyes are weak, my instinct still puts me in the X ring. 

After being in law enforcement, corporate security and investigations, bank administration and high rise security for the last 45+ years, it’s time to retire and enjoy time with my wife of 47 years, Karen, our two daughters, Alison and Colleen, their husbands and our five grandchildren. My plans are to retire in September.  I have truly enjoyed the many security challenges over the years and will sorely miss the AON Center tenants as well as federal, state and local law enforcement friends, CFD, OEMC, FEMA and many other security contacts made throughout my career.