B.C. records spike in private security guards

If it seems like there are more private security guards on the streets these days, it’s because there are.

According to statistics provided to the Straight by the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the total number of licences issued for private security personnel in the province has increased by 60 percent over the past five years.

In 2004, 10,124 private security personnel were licenced in B.C. As of October 16, 2009, there were 16,200. And that number is about to increase dramatically.

In an e-mail to the Straight, a ministry spokesperson noted that as of November 1, all door people in B.C. will be required to carry a security-services licence. According to the e-mail, the ministry estimates that the introduction of a licence requirement for those workers will mean an additional 500 licences. That will bring the number to 16,700, a 65-percent increase since 2004.

Sam MacLeod, executive director of the security programs and police technology division of the ministry, described the growth of the private security industry as steady. He attributed the spike in new licences issued since 2007 to changes in legislation.

In April 2007, the Security Services Act was passed by the legislature to replace the Private Investigators Security Agencies Act. Workers required to carry licences for the first time included armoured-car guards, in-house bodyguards, and door staff at liquor-licensed establishments. The bill came into force in September 2008 and has been phased in incrementally.

MacLeod also cited the new act as the reason that a rise in licences issued has not been mirrored in violation tickets issued to the private security industry. During 2007 and 2008, the number of warning notices issued to private security businesses jumped from 98 to 513 (statistics for 2009 remain under review). But actual violations tickets for the same period only increased from 25 to 35.

“It is a new act that is new to the industry,” MacLeod explained. “So we go out there, we educate awareness, and then if there is still noncompliance, then we look at enforcement action.”

The November 1 requirement for door people to carry security-service licences is the final stage of the new act’s implementation.

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