Wealthy Brisbane suburb funds private nighttime security patrols to tackle crime

A private security company paid by residents to patrol the streets of some of Brisbane’s wealthier suburbs says its presence in the area is helping people sleep at night.

Over the past nine months, guards wearing high-vis vests, wielding nothing more than a flashlight, have been on the lookout for criminal activity in pockets of Clayfield, Ascot and Hamilton in the north from the city.

24/7 group chief executive Randall Hughes said six guards were stationed in the suburbs over the weekend to “alleviate the fear that some people are going through right now”.

“People are tired of home invasions, their cars being stolen, people trespassing on their properties overnight and they’ve just had enough,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“Queensland Police Services do a great job, but they can’t be everywhere all the time, so we’re helping people by putting designated guards in areas and keeping an eye on their homes during the evening.”

Mr Hughes said a group of residents on a street in Ascot were paying more than $40 an hour to have a guard from 9 p.m. until sunrise every day.

He said his staff, who are licensed, trained in first aid and have passed police checks, are primarily a deterrent to would-be criminals.

“If we see anyone, we will track them down, arrest them and call the police.”

It was not the first time Brisbane residents had investigated the crime prevention strategy.

In September 2021, a month after a violent home invasion against former Wallaby Toutai Kefu and his family, leaflets were distributed in Coorparoo offering a similar business.

“With recent burglaries and criminal activity in our area, as a local homeowner like you, I am so worried about my family and my home,” it read.

A black, white and yellow flyer lying on a wooden table.
This leaflet was distributed to residents of Coorparoo after a family was attacked in their home.(Provided: Tracey Goodall)

“What I would like to offer, and I am happy to organize on behalf of our community, is three night patrols by a professional security company for our Martha Street pocket.”

Former Coorparoo resident Tracey Goodall said the idea never saw the light of day because the Queensland Police Service (QPS) had increased its presence in the area.

Suburban Private Security Powers

Mr Hughes said security officers were legally authorized to arrest and detain people under the Citizens’ Arrest section of the Criminal Code (Qld) Act 1899, but the criminologist at the University of Queensland Dr Renee Zahnow said the methods used by security companies to deter crime were available to anyone on the street.

“They can defend themselves or the lives of others.

“They certainly can’t tell the general public to move on, everyone is still allowed to be on public roads.”

A neighborhood watch sign on a street.
Dr. Zahnow says getting to know your neighbors helps people recognize who belongs and who doesn’t belong on their street.(ABC News: Anthony Pancia)

Anyone is free to record the description and vehicle details of a suspicious person on their street and report any criminal activity to the police.

Deterring crime by monitoring your street work, but Dr Zahnow said the idea that we should take responsibility for the safety of our own community is fast disappearing.

“These kinds of things used to be done through informal social control, with eyes on the street and guardianship provided by landlords,” she said.

“COVID has certainly done something to accelerate this trend of us being locked down, being more online, and perhaps not interacting as much on our street and in local areas and therefore having to commodify or pay for private security. “

Dr Zahnow said the popularity of social media-based community groups rather than traditional face-to-face neighborhood watch groups had affected people’s ability to visually recognize who belonged and did not belong on their street.

QPS says night patrol idea has merit

A QPS spokesperson said hiring private security contractors collectively or individually has the merit of being a legal way to increase the security of people and property.

“While the employment of security contractors to patrol residential developments is a business arrangement independent of QPS, it is evident that there is a lower rate of breaches around gated developments with on-site security compared to others. residential developments,” he said in a statement.

“Trained security providers generally understand the limits of their authority and this includes knowing when to escalate a situation to the Queensland Police Service (QPS) for advice or assistance.”

He also encouraged people to get involved in the Neighborhood Watch (NHW) program.

Strategy highlights inequalities in crime prevention

Dr Zahnow said hiring private security was effective for people who could afford it, but had the potential to push the problem into less affluent areas – a phenomenon criminologists call displacement.

“When [security guards] are in contact with the police all the time, there are fewer opportunities and fewer resources for the police to be called upon to commit a crime elsewhere,” she said.

She said people who couldn’t afford a private security deal with their neighbors could use some of these strategies instead:

  • Join your nearest neighborhood watch group
  • Get to know your neighbors and exchange contact details
  • Make sure you are visually aware of who belongs on your street
  • Keep bushes and trees in front of your property trimmed so your home is visible from the street
  • Lock your vehicle when not in use
  • Lock your front door, even when you’re home

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