24/02/2010

Should security staff have police powers?

Posted in Crime, Law 'n order, Police at 9:04 pm by henrysgauntlet

The BBC reports that an Essex-based security company is to be given powers to hand out on-the-spot fines.   The idea is that door supervisors working for the company have some of the powers that the police have to tackle anti-social behaviour, (how I hate that phrase).

The company provides security staff at shopping centres and over 200 door supervisors at venues in Basildon, Chelmsford, Harlow and Colchester.   The company’s staff will carry identity cards issued by police under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme, and then will be able to hand out the on-the-spot fines.

Well, most of us don’t like yobbish behaviour in shopping centres, around clubs and so on, but this does seem a step too far.

Last November I was at Lakeside Shopping Centre on a Friday evening when a gang of teenagers of both sexes made a huge nuisance of themselves.   They were in the lesser populated side walkways, and were harrassing shopkeepers, and throwing themselves against plate glass windows.   Lakeside makes good use of CCTV cameras, and the splendid security staff arrived very quickly.   They escorted the group to the nearest outer exit, but it wasn’t very long before they were back again.   This happened three or four times, and then the Police were called.   Again, they reacted quickly, and this time the youngsters were ejected and didn’t come back.

So, should Lakeside’s security staff have had the power to issue fines?   Well, it might be a quicker response, but almost certainly the youngsters would not have the cash to pay the fines.   Then there would be a long-drawn out process of trying to make the parents pay, probably unsuccessfully.  So it seems a rather pointless exercise.

But, even more importantly, I can’t condone extending police powers to other people.   Already there are too many instances of  “authorities” having the right to enter our homes and boss us about.   I don’t want to live in a police state, and giving “security” staff police powers, albeit in a small way, is a step in the wrong direction.

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