A state-sponsored ‘neighbourhood watch’; Griffith explains gov’t decision to use security guards

Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith described the Ministry of National Security’s latest initiative, which will put security guards from four firms into residential neighbourhoods, as a state-sponsored ‘community watch’.

This afternoon, a National Security release declared that the government has hired four private security firms to ‘provide mobile security patrol services in various residential districts on a 24-hour basis throughout Trinidad during the period 6 April to 5 May 2020 in the first instance’.

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) and Minister of National Security Stuart Young.
(Copyright TTPS)

The security guards, according to the release, will ‘support law enforcement officers by providing further patrols and manpower in predetermined areas’. Griffith confirmed that the guards will generally not have the power to arrest.

“They have no powers of arrest, unless they are precepted officers like estate constables—but few of them are,” Griffith told Wired868. “Most of them will function like a neighbourhood watch group. They will offer a higher level of visibility, which can act as a deterrent.

“If they see something looking suspicious, they can contact the police.”

Their presence on the ground will, in theory, allow the police to train their manpower on more volatile areas.

At present, the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force has roughly 5,000 soldiers and coast guard officers, who have been used in a limited way alongside police officers. The government opted to turn to the private sector to patrol residential areas, though, rather than put more soldiers on the street.

The security firms hired by the National Security Ministry are: Allied Security Limited, Amalgamated Security Services Limited, Innovative Security Technologies Limited and Protective Agencies Limited.

Photo: Amalgamated Security director Dr Michael Aboud.

Although the security guards are to alert the TTPS in cases of emergency, they would be managed by the National Operations Fusion Centre (NOFC), which, according to the National Security release, ‘is positioned to effectively and efficiently coordinate a rapid, multi-agency response in keeping with the state’s whole of government approach’.

In theory, if a guard sees something untoward, he or she would presumably contact the NOFC—headed by Major Roger Best—who would then alert the TTPS so that a lawman can be dispatched.

“This initiate is being employed in order to enhance the national security response and support recent measures instituted by the government of the republic of Trinidad and Tobago to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus,” stated the release. “[…] As such, the Ministry of National Security will continue to respond to threats to public safety and order by developing, modifying, escalating and/or de-escalating its response as required.

“This latest strategy by the Ministry of National Security to engage private security firms, represents one such measure and will effectively increase operational capacity of law enforcement agencies to more swiftly detect and respond to breaches of the law while promoting stricter compliance through public engagement.

“It is to be noted that this initiate will be monitored for quality and its operating parameters adjusted accordingly as necessary.”

Photo: The novel coronavirus.

At present, it is not illegal to go outdoors although the government is urging people to stay home, so as to address the spread of the new coronavirus.

At present, Trinidad and Tobago has 107 confirmed cases of Covid-19 from 878 samples tested. There have been eight deaths and one discharge.

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