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Who will guard the guards?

EDITORIAL:Who will guard the guards?
LAST week’s murder of security guard Sandra Gomez at the Lever Brothers compound in Champs Fleurs should bring renewed focus on the problems of the guards and the lack of training which still characterises the industry.

In the past four months 12 security guards have been robbed of their weapons and two have been murdered in the process. Despite the important functions they perform, security guards are among the lowest trained and the most poorly paid workers in the country. Given the rising crime levels in Trinidad and Tobago, there is now a proliferation of security companies offering all kinds of services but without ensuring their employees receive the training necessary for the rudimentary tasks required for the job.

The environment is now complicated by the fact that, if they are armed, the guards have become as much a target as the premises which they have been hired to protect.

The murder of Ms Gomez is just the latest in a series of attacks on the guards aimed at relieving them of their weapons. In fact, it was followed the next day by another attack on a female security guard in Arima.

Given previous attacks on other guards, some of them fatal, it is clear the security companies and maybe even the government will have to look at the standards employed in the industry.

Representatives of the owners of the security companies met with the Commissioner of Police last week, following the attacks, to craft a response to the emerging problem. While this is a welcome development there is much that needs to be done by the companies themselves to protect their employees.

Along with the rising crime rate, the explosion in the security industry has also been facilitated by the high unemployment levels in the country which results in workers accepting the jobs in companies, some of which, operate below the minimum wage and under poor working conditions. Employees work longer hours than are acceptable under most industrial agreements.

The use of bullet-proof vests, for example, is not common in the industry and security companies generally resist any efforts to improve the standards under which their guards work.

The events of last week show there is now a focused attention on security guards by the criminal element and fighting it off will require not just greater training but also access to equipment and technology that have not been prevalent in the industry.

And the security guards are not the only ones in danger. There have also been cases of indiscriminate shootings by security guards, even instances of guards using their weapons for purposes other than that for which they were hired.

To be sure there have also been similar instances among policemen and other members of the protective services, who one assumes, are better trained and paid. This does not negate however, the ease with which these latest attacks on members of the security industry have been perpetrated, and the need, long established, for closer regulation of the industry. Poorly paid and trained guards are a danger, not just to themselves, but also the public and businesses they are hired to protect.

Given recent events, it may be necessary that the question of who will guard the guards, no longer be a rhetorical one.

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Who will guard the guards?
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