Trinidad and Tobago has a largely unregulated private security industry with about 500 private security firms unregulated and employing as many as 50,000 people. However, legislation could change this scenario, Deputy Director of the Office of Law Enforcement Policy, Ministry of National Security, Curtis Belford said.
Giving an overview of the private security industry in TT yesterday at a symposium hosted by the Joint Select Committee on National Security at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, Belford said, an actual accurate figure on the size of the private security industry in TT is difficult to obtain.
“About 20 to 25 firms operate officially in Trinidad with an acceptable standard of institutional capacity and functional guidelines,” he said.
The demand for private security services, he said, grew by leaps and bounds over the last ten years. This was due to increase in business activity and concerns about violent crime and emerging criminal threats.
The private security industry, he said, “is responding to the need, providing more and more specialized services” and was providing critical support to the State policing apparatus to address the plethora of issues confronting society.
On the current state of the private security industry, he said, due to the lack of regulations, only firms that employ precepted officers are obliged to register with the Ministry of National Security.
A total of 200 private security companies have been approved to operate as protective service agencies, but over 50 percent were inactive.
Belford said that several “fly by night” security companies operate with no approval.
In addition there were over 8000 supplemental (precepted) police officers and about 24,000 security (non-precepted) officers.
According to Belford, legislative reform is a critical first step in addressing the issues currently plaguing the private security industry.
On the justification for legislation to regulate the industry, he said, there is no overarching framework in which the industry is located, and attempts have been made since the early 1990s to enact legislation.
The draft Private Security Industry Bill released in 2014, he said, included the powers and duties of security guards, watchmen, bodyguards, crowd-controllers, bouncers, private investigators among others.
It provided for the establishment of a Private Security Services Authority to regulate the industry and to include issuing, revoking, suspending, cancelling and varying licences.
Proposed reform requirements to improve the industry include the establishment of training and operational standards to facilitate certification, and monitoring and inspecting the operations of
licensees to ensure compliance.
It was also proposed that character investigations be done and background checks made for applicants.
Current challenges that face the industry, Belford said, include clients continually cutting costs, issues of wages, overtime payments, and other terms and conditions, and conflict between the Estate Police Association (EPA) and major private security companies over employment conditions and wages.
He said that there was a limited pool of available males to recruit, resulting in large numbers of females being hired.
In addition, he said that some companies recruit undocumented migrants who are subjected to exploitation.
Another challenge is that the relationship between private security companies and the TTPS is somewhat uncertain.