Private security firms Editorial
Stabroek News
October 25, 2002

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In an excellent feature in the October issue of the Guyana Review that is now in the bookstores the private security business is fully discussed. It is a surprise to learn that there are over 100 private security agencies which range from a three man operation offering a basic watchman service to a 700 strong company with mobile patrols backed by electronic communication equipment. Services available include the provision of guards (baton, armed and canine), executive protection, investigations, escorts, electronic alarm system with armed backup, cash pick ups and deposits, aviation security, armed mobile patrols and marine security.

The feature highlights the fact that the increase in criminal activities has led to a demand for more security services but companies are finding it difficult to attract suitable personnel, especially since some guards were killed by criminals for their weapons. As many as 45% of those employed are women and casual observation will show that many of these are not young women. However, executives of security companies told the Guyana Review that women guards were generally more reliable and at least one has been promoted to a very senior position.

There are many problems facing the security business including inadequate training and in some of the operations poor pay and bad working conditions. Some companies make a profit but others are marginal and tend to survive by cutting corners. This newspaper has received many letters from guards complaining about poor pay, replacements not turning up forcing them to work extra shifts, fines being imposed for lateness and so on. Of course some of the problems are caused by the unreliability of other guards.

The feature points out that senior policeman and executives of the better companies feel that the training of security personnel should be standardised and of a high professional level with a regulatory organization in place. It was suggested that the Guyana Association of Private Security Organisations (GAPSO) should have the power to enforce standards and that training should include general policing functions, arrest procedures, crime scene handling procedures and human rights principles. At present, many guards do not have this level of training. Indeed there are no laws or regulations governing the industry. The Institute of Security and Public Safety at the Kuru Kuru Co-operative College is offering security related courses for security personnel in the private and public sectors.

The Guyana Review reports that GAPSO is making efforts to prepare documentation aimed at drafting rules for the industry. At present, anyone can start a security company and there is clearly a need for legislation to set minimum standards for registration. Given the fact that many more criminals are armed than used to be the case, some with machine guns, there is clearly also a need for some fundamental rethinking as to the role guards can and should be asked to play. Indeed if the present vicious crime wave continues there may have to be instituted mechanisms for a much higher level of cooperation between services and with the police. As of now, unarmed guards will frequently be at a severe disadvantage and armed guards are of course in danger, as we have seen, unless perhaps they are strategically positioned so they are not an easy target.

Security is now bigger business than it used to be but the new challenges the firms face are considerable. One suspects that given the natural human tendency of guards to sleep soundly while on night duty (guard service is the best cure for insomnia, someone said) - though many services try to curb this by regular inspections - there will be an increasing reliance on electronic alarm systems which trigger an armed response. Depending on the timeliness and efficiency of that response (number of men and weapons) this could provide real protection, even against armed criminals.