Security guards “use force illegally” on homeless, Pivot Legal Society reports

Pivot Legal Society has released a long-awaited and damning report on private security in Vancouver.

Titled Security Before Justice: A Study of the Impacts of Private Security on Homelessness and Under-housed Vancouver Residents, the report begins by noting that in Vancouver, the growth of the private security industry has vastly outstripped that of public police forces. According to the report, the number of private security guards in the city grew by 300 percent between 1991 and 2005.

“There are now at least twice as many private police as public police,” the report claims.

A number of “central issues” related to the growth of the private security industry are identified early in the report.

Pivot’s study claims that homeless and under-housed people are unusually likely to have frequent and relatively problematic interactions with security guards.

The report found that private security guards “routinely overstep the bounds of their authority on public property” and that “profiling” on behalf of security guards results in the harassment of homeless and visibly poor people. Aboriginal people, the mentally ill, and drug addicts are allegedly especially affected.

“Private security guards use force illegally,” the report also stated. “Both survey respondents and focus group participants claimed that guards are using force and threats of violence against homeless and other marginalized people on a routine basis.”

Pivot’s study is based on survey information collected from 154 Downtown Eastside residents and two follow-up focus groups.

Many statistics in the report taken from those surveys point to allegedly widespread problems.

The report states that roughly 50 percent of respondents’ interactions with private security guards are happening on city streets. Street are public spaces where private security guards have no more authority than the citizens they are interacting with.

The study also found that 59 percent of the homeless people surveyed said they had been asked to leave a public space and that 51 percent of homeless participants in the study have four or more encounters with security guards a month.

The report states: “This study focuses on the experiences of those most on the margins of society, but it raises issues that should alarm anyone committed to democratic policing, accountable governance and respect for human rights.”

Included in the report are several recommendations for how the City of Vancouver could reverse negative trends in private policing.

In the report, Pivot Legal Society recommends that there be a moratorium on the moving of homeless people from public spaces; that public funding for private policing cease until certain issues are addressed; and that a “strong system of accountability” for private security be implemented.

In December 2007, the City of Vancouver approved $872,000 be spent to expand the Downtown Ambassadors program, which is operated by Genesis Security and sees private security guards patrol many areas of Downtown Vancouver.


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Comments

8 Comments

montyvan

Nov 27, 2008 at 11:52am

Interesting that Pivot says it wants to get rid of private security companies, but, not the "public" security guards at Carnegie Centre who have committed civil liberties violations for years. Let's be perfectly clear here: Pivot and Eby will only help those who support CUPE, Vision or the NDP. Everyone else is a potential target of Pivot's and Eby's political mudslinging operation.

13 7Rating: +6

General Zod

Nov 27, 2008 at 1:07pm

As Security Director for a well known local company i would like to add something to this discussion.

I have several guards in the areas listed within the article and, as a result, have encountered several situations with DTES residents. Some of the situations have been to the fault of the guards but most are not. The article fails to accept any of blame for issues that arise from public disorder, public drunkenness, drug dealing, assault and vagrancy. I do not condone the aggressive behaviour exhibited by some guards and some companies but it must be addressed that a large portion of the problem comes from the attitudes of people who have very little respect for any request by any figure of authority.

A good solution to this: don't smash windows, urinate on doorways, assault people who refuse to give change, get drunk in public, throw things at security guards or judge guards based on their occupation.

Also, who were these 154 residents? Do they have criminal records? What is their status within the DTES community? This information should be considered when analyzing the information.

Travis Lupick

Nov 27, 2008 at 1:27pm

"The article fails to accept any of blame for issues that arise from public disorder, public drunkenness, drug dealing, assault and vagrancy."

This article is a summary of Pivot Legal's report. The report did not discuss issues that arise from public disorder.

Areas that the report did cover that were not discussed in the article include: the regulation of public space, the legal powers of security guards, private security and the police, the regulations and training of the security industry, and public funding of private security.

The above issues were not discussed in the story because they have been written on in the Straight in the past.

Pivot's full report on private security can be found <a href="http://www.pivotlegal.org/pdfs/securitybeforejustice.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>.

See:
<a href="http://www.straight.com/article-114431/private-police">Private police</a>, a cover story from October 2007
<a href="http://www.straight.com/article-159235/security-training-questioned">Dow... Ambassadors security training questioned</a>
<a href="http://www.straight.com/article-138349/bias-differ-ambassadors">Business Improvement Associations differ on ambassadors</a>
<a href="http://www.straight.com/article-125299/npa-pushes-downtown-ambassadors-f... pushes Downtown Ambassadors funding through council</a>

Mack

Nov 28, 2008 at 12:14pm

"...it must be addressed that a large portion of the problem comes from the attitudes of people who have very little respect for any request by any figure of authority."

General Zod, how is a Downtown Ambassador a "figure of authority"? To whom??

12 8Rating: +4

Greg

Nov 28, 2008 at 1:58pm

Anyone who wants to employ security guards can easily get around the provincial legislation that regulates security guards. All they have to do is hire unlicensed security guards. For example, licensed security guards aren’t allowed to carry handcuffs, let alone use them. But unlicensed security guards are allowed to carry and use handcuffs.

The Pivot report mentions that Vancouver police provide peoples’ names and dates of birth to private security guards, or in other cases VPD allow security guards to record the info while police are questioning people. This matches my own experience. Three VPD officers made me give my name, home address and birth date to two unlicensed security guards who had just handcuffed and assaulted me on a public street.

In addition, Vancouver police interpret the Criminal Code (Section 494 (1) and (2), regarding the right of citizens’ arrest) to mean that security guards have the right to handcuff and detain someone on a public street for no better reason than a vague, unsubstantiated allegation of “suspicion.” A layman can see that this interpretation is not only mistaken but also dangerous. Yet that’s the interpretation the VPD use. The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner agrees with the VPD on this.

Greg Klein
gklein79@hotmail.com
http://www.straight.com/article-114431/private-police?#
www.bcpolicecomplaints.org

DTES_Resident_with_a_job

Nov 28, 2008 at 2:16pm

Maybe it's time we stopped using public funds to fund Pivot? I live in Gastown where I have been spit at, sworn at, had crack addicts run circles around me demanding money, been chased down the hallway by a crack addicted neighbour and had to step over human waste to get to my door. It's a nightmare.

I depend on those security guards and they do a great job. I have never seen them harass anyone. But then, I guess these poor homeless types think being asking to please not crap on the doorstep is harassment.

I would rather have my money go to security to ensure my safety in my neighbourhood than to a legal society that has gone so far left they can't see that taxpayers and people who do contribute to society have some rights too!

Tommy Douglas would roll right over in his grave if he realized what social programs have come to mean in this day and age.

Social programs were meant as a short-term safety net for hard working Canadians who found themselves falling on hard times or for the 'less fortunate' who were unable to support themselves. Less fortunate did not and does not mean drug addicts who have caused their own situation. It was never meant as a sustainable lifestyle. Members who want to be part of a thriving society must at least attempt to contribute to it.

Oh I know that these poor drug addicts have all sorts of very good reasons for being drug addicts but let's face it, not everyone who had a bad childhood is a drug addict and malingerer now are they? No, it's just the ones who don't want to work.

Mack asked General Zod, how is a Downtown Ambassador a "figure of authority"? To whom??

I'll tell you whom Mack, to me and every other hard working individual in the community! Why should I have to come home every day and walk past the same guy who vomits and craps all over my sidewalk telling me to F off? We all should have the authority to tell that guy to get out of the neighbourhood and get a job! And don't say there are no jobs, there are jobs if you want them. I have 2 jobs. My daughter has two jobs and is in full time school. In fact I don't know anyone who wants to work that doesn't right now.

Our homeless problem is a self fulfilling prophecy. Keep pandering to it and it will inevitably become a bigger problem. Maybe if the money trough stopped some of the homeless would get a job! What a novel idea...contribute to the society they say they want so desperately to belong to...how about that for a change?

Maybe Pivot could do a study with my peace of mind, my mental health and my security in mind instead of constantly pandering to a bunch of drug addicts and thieves!

With all the recent plant closures and company layoffs, we might need that social safety net to help those that will really deserve it. Then we'll need more security guards to defend us against all the druggies smashing car windows to scratch up a bit of change for their next fix.

rick

Feb 8, 2010 at 3:50pm

There is an easy answer to this so called problem, Teach everyone with the issue to this what public property is and what private property with public acsess is.....then you may understand why security has the right to remove people from these places.

Berg, Esq.

Sep 6, 2010 at 10:55am

>> As Security Director for a well known local company

What local company? Well-known by whom?

>> i would like to add something to this discussion.

By "adding" to the discussion, General Zoo is sidestepping the issue and trying to change the subject.

Due to his employment history, it's obvious where his loyalties are: he's WITH the GUARDS.

Due to his statements, it's also obvious he's AGAINST the PUBLIC (i.e. the residents of Vancouver).

>> A good solution to this: don't smash windows,
>> urinate on doorways, assault people who refuse
>> to give change, get drunk in public, throw things
>> at security guards or judge guards based on
>> their occupation.

By "adding" to the discussion he's not adding anything of value. What he's REALLY adding is the implication that the ILLEGAL actions of GUARDS is A) no issue (in his opinion) and B) perfectly acceptable (to him), as long as he and his company can blame it on YOU (i.e. the residents of Vancouver).