Where Security Guards Outnumber (and Sometimes Outgun) the Police

Even McDonald’s has heavily armed guards roaming their parking lots. Many of the private security guards wear military style fatigues and carry Uzis or pistol-grip shotguns (amazingly, most municipal transit police officers, such as the PMT of Mixco and PMT of San Lucas do not carry guns).

At times it is hard to tell them apart from soldiers or police officers. I once went to Banco de los Trabajadores in Los Proceres shopping mall in Guatemala City and there were as many security guards as bank tellers. The bank was a small branch and had six guards dressed in fatigues and wearing bullet proof vests. They looked as if they were ready to go to war. This is understandable, as bank robberies are common in Guatemala. I remember every few months the daily newspaper Al Dia would run a cover article with a graphic picture of the latest bank robbery’s bloody aftermath.

Photo: A security guard working for the Grupo Golan security company in Antigua, Guatemala.

With the crime situation in Guatemala being as bad as it is, the private security business has been booming for a decade. It’s estimated that there are up to 150,000 private security guards in Guatemala. They vastly outnumber the police, at just 25,000.

This has become a trend in countries that reeling from high crime rates. In South Africa, there are an estimated 400,000 private security guards working for over 9,000 security companies. This is more than the total number of police and soldiers in the entire country. As in Guatemala, they are extremely well armed and many look as if they are members of elite military units. Some of them are even trained by their companies in military tactics. There are also South African security companies that have helicopters and armored personnel carriers and resemble small armies.

In Guatemala, relying on private security can be problematic. Private guards are low paid and many lack any significant training, even though they carry heavy weaponry. Unfortunately, the entire industry is unchecked for the most part. Because of this, the government created the Private Security Services Department (DIGESSP) in 2010 and passed a law that required security companies to be registered with the new agency. Companies would be listed in a database and be subjected to checks and balances. Security companies were given had two years to comply, but only 140 have registered so far. Hundreds more are still operating without government oversight.

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Uncovering Trafficking of Persons and Drugs in the Americas

In Guatemala private security guards are ubiquitous. They can be seen patrolling supermarkets, malls, office buildings, parking garages, restaurants, churches, factories, gas stations, taxi stands, and city buses. Even McDonald’s has heavily armed guards roaming their parking lots. Many of the private security guards wear military style fatigues and carry Uzis or pistol-grip shotguns (amazingly, most municipal transit police officers, such as the PMT of Mixco and PMT of San Lucas, do not carry guns). At times it is hard to tell them apart from soldiers or police officers. I once went to Banco de los Trabajadores in Los Proceres shopping mall in Guatemala City and there were as many security guards as bank tellers. The bank was a small branch and had six guards dressed in fatigues and wearing bullet proof vests. They looked as if they were ready to go to war. This is understandable, as bank robberies…

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Oakland Neighborhood Uses Crowdfunding To Pay For Private Guards

Lemley and some of her neighbors wanted private security guards to patrol their streets. To raise money, they launched a page on Crowdtilt.com, urging people to contribute to the cause.

“It’s been about a week and we’ve raised around $20,000;” Lemley said. In just a few days, another group of Rockridge residents raised more than $13,000 on Crowdtilt, while a third group raised more than $1,000.

Does private security even work? One swath of the Oakmore neighborhood in Oakland hasn’t seen a home burglary for seven months, since hiring a private guard.

Not everyone is convinced. “What would be nice is if the city council would figure out a way for the police department to fill in the holes,” said Alex Circiello, a lifelong Rockridge resident.

Circiello said he worries that bringing in private guards to each neighborhood will have an isolating effect. “We have our own security forces and the next block over has their own security forces and we’re no longer a functioning city that has a police department,” he said.

Lemley said the guards are on a trial run. $24,000 would buy six months of 12-hour patrols, five days a week.

“If this is something people want, we can come together and do it. And at the same time if it’s not, then it can stop,” she said.

The neighbors are considering donating any additional funds they collect to neighborhoods that cannot afford private security.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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CBS San Francisco

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Fed up with rising crime, residents of Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood have turned to online donations to pay for private security guards.

The push for guards began after several casual carpoolers were robbed at gunpoint on the morning of September 23rd.

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Rockridge resident Amy Lemley is a neighbor of one of the victims. “There’s been a more serious uptick and I feel like a more brazen nature,” Lemley said.

Over the past six months, there have been 28 robberies, 32 burglaries and eight assaults in this enclave. “Let’s use modern technology to try to bring the community together,” Lemley said.

Lemley and some of her neighbors wanted private security guards to patrol their streets. To raise money, they launched a page on Crowdtilt.com, urging people to contribute to the…

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