City’s funding of security firms questioned

The owner of Provident Security stands to benefit from the city granting taxpayer dollars to business improvement associations for increased private security patrols. But Mike Jagger opposes the move.

“If there’s money going out to other BIAs, Kerrisdale certainly deserves it,” said Jagger, the president of Provident. “If given the choice, I would certainly recommend that we would want to have more police time.”

Provident Security has been under contract to the Kerrisdale Business Association since 1997, with the association spending $1 million on security over the past 11 years. The city approved a grant of $31,600 in October for additional professional security services in Kerrisdale.

But Jagger says while having the eyes and ears that security officers provide on the street adds value to money spent on policing, the reverse is also true. Having a dedicated community police officer adds value to the money businesses spend through their associations on private security.

Jagger said Const. Ray Gardner has provided full-time service to Kerrisdale, Oakridge and Marpole for about three years, and that his presence has benefited the community.

“The difference [lies in] being able to call one person directly that you know is in the neighbourhood and is aware of the back story and he cares and he’s been given the time of day to follow up on things with people. Just for the average business, the citizen, you just get so much better value from the police because they’re able to see things through,” Jagger said.

While graffiti and shoplifting aren’t top priorities for police, they’re big issues for small business owners working to put food on their tables, Jagger said.

He believes being able to deal with a young vandal in a serious, but not criminal way, by calling a meeting with a troublesome youth, the parents and the community police officer, prevents escalating crimes.

Nine community policing offices with a dedicated officer operate in Vancouver. Jagger argues the $800,000 the city allocated to expanding security patrols citywide should be used to hire officers for areas not covered by community offices.

A first class constable in the Vancouver Police Department earns $74,619 after four years, so Jagger’s suggested reallocation could ostensibly afford nearly 11 additional community policing officers, without providing a community office.

Having worked out of a community policing office, Const. Tim Fanning said he knows personally how useful they can be. But he said the city approved the police department’s request for money for additional officers last year, so the money allocated to security patrols didn’t take money away from policing.

Pivot Legal Society last week called for a ban on private security in public spaces. It released a report arguing residents in poorer neighbourhoods are more likely to be interrogated, harassed or experience violence at the hands of private security guards. Its findings were based on surveys and focus groups with more than 160 residents of the Downtown Eastside.

Pivot argues the city should redirect the $800,0000 in public money for private security in business areas to homeless outreach services and rent supplements.

“What’s needed is instead of diverting those resources to more enforcement, diverting those resources to outreach programs and programs that would actually help to improve the lives of homeless and poor people, which would in turn, of course, beneficially impact businesses as well,” said Laura Track, Pivot spokesperson.

Jagger doesn’t think redirecting this money would have the positive effect Pivot suggests.

Published December 3, 2008 ยท The Vancouver Courier ยท Written by Cheryl Rossi

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