10 May 2024

Security guards seek power to detain as aggressive crime on the rise

9:11 pm on 10 May 2024
A person stands with their back to the camera in a high vis jacket which reads 'security'.

The Security Association is was looking at stab-resistant vests and body cameras to minimise risks to guards. Photo: Unsplash

Security guards need legal powers to detain offenders while committing a crime, an industry group says.

On Sunday night a man was shot dead on Auckland's Ponsonby Road and the gunman, who had been refused entry into a bar, was later found dead in Taupō.

Two security workers from the bar tried to help the man who was fatally shot.

In April, groups of masked thieves with weapons attacked two jewellery stores in Auckland while customers were inside.

Security Association chief executive Gary Morrison said security guards were increasingly facing hostile situations and needed more protective gear and powers.

There had been an increase in verbal and physical aggression across most public-facing security roles, Morrison told Checkpoint.

It ranged from questioning and swearing, to threatening and assault, Morrison said.

"We've seen that change in society, probably post Covid where people just have slightly different attitudes, they feel certainly a level of entitlement in some cases."

He said the abuse was prevalent in hospitality, retail and crowd control situations at events.

And the association was looking at stab-resistant vests and body cameras to minimise risks to guards. They were not cheap - more than $1000 - and would add to the cost of the security service delivery, he said.

"We do run the risk of overpricing services and losing work as well. That's a difficult balance."

There was an increase in weapons being carried around, not necessarily guns but "if you look at the ram raid situation - machetes, knives [are] very, very common and they can be quite easily concealed".

"That's a real concern because the security staff may not be aware of weapons that are being carried, so they have to be very careful and observant."

Security guards had moved from the minimum wage to the living wage, he said.

"It's certainly not a high-paying role in most cases."

Morrison said the association supported the coalition government's stance on being tough on crime.

"Offenders committing the crime need to be aware that there are consequences."

Security guards had minimal authority, and limited power to make arrests.

"We are working with our registrar, the Ministry of Justice and police with regards to having increased powers and certain functions, particularly around shoplifting.

"We would like the ability to detain offenders who are in the process of taking property, but only where we've got appropriate licensing and training to support that as well.

"We'd like them to be able to retrieve the property and detain those offenders, if it's safe to do so, pending arrival of police."

Mealamu Security which looks after the Auckland suburb of Ōtāhuhu said deterrents were needed, not just proactive responses to disturbances.

Its boss Luke Mealamu said a community approach was needed.

"We're seeing a lot of anti-social behaviour in regards to not only alcohol, but drugs in our community," he said.

"I do believe it's a community approach ... local rugby clubs, local boxing clubs, we're all pushing the vision of safe community, so that our kids can all walk the streets safe, without bumping into a group of men drinking on the corner."

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