Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

The State of Private Security Companies in Trinidad and Tobago: Towards the Development of a Governance System

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

The State of Private Security Companies in Trinidad and Tobago: Towards the Development of a Governance System

Article excerpt

Abstract

Increasingly throughout the Caribbean, more commercial and non-militarized kinds of private security comprise security governance today. The escalating spate of serious crimes -- mostly at the urban level, coupled with the inability of traditional law enforcement to contain heightened criminality has worsened the growing feeling of insecurity felt by CARICOM citizens. Recent statistics suggest that the number of companies providing security services has grown considerably, and this dramatic growth of the private security industry definitely deserves further attention. While at the international stage, initiatives have and continue to advocate for stricter controls of these companies and their operations, the state of regulation of the industry in Trinidad and Tobago is less than desired. Employing a systemic approach, the paper assesses the dynamics of the private security industry in Trinidad and Tobago and current state of regulation.

Conceptualizing Private Security Companies in Trinidad and Tobago

"The privatization of security as a gr owing phenomenon definitely deserves further attention. Due both to high rates of criminality -- mostly at the urban level -- and a growing feeling of insecurity perceived across Latin American and Caribbean countries, the number of companies providing security services has grown considerably. On the international stage, initiatives have and continue to advocate for stricter controls of these companies and their operations (UN-LiREC 2011: 27)."

This article hopes to present the state of Private Security Companies (PSCs) in Trinidad and Tobago and highlight the need for a functioning and effective governance system for the industry. The article suggests that while PSCs continue to thrive in response to the forces of globalization and privatization or due to the severe security challenges which traditional public security institutions are unable to tackle because of resource constraints, the industry is not well regulated. It presents that there is a need for a governance system to over the activities of PSCs. The article does not delve into what this governance system might look like, but rather highlights areas in which it might prove to be most useful for the industry. It concludes that the triad of state, private sector and civil society has a significant interest in the nature and elements of this governance system.

A review of the literature on private security suggests that PSCs are often incorrectly not distinguished from private military companies (PMCs). While both types provide supplemental services to meet greater demands for various kinds of security, they are however different particularly with regards to the types of services provided and national understanding of their roles. In Trinidad and Tobago, they are formally known as protective service agencies. According to the private non-profit, PrivateMilitary.org, private military companies have been widely used since the 1990s as a reference for all firms in the industry. As such they employ Carlos Ortiz's (2010:48) definition of PMCs and PSCs as:

"...legally established international firms offering services that involve the potential to exercise force in a systematic way and by military or paramilitary means, as well as the enhancement, the transfer, the facilitation, the deterrence, or the defusing of this potential, or the knowledge required to implement it, to clients."

This generic definition is problematic on several fronts and is particularly inadequate in case of Trinidad and Tobago where the progressive reliance on private security companies reflects the inability of traditional state protective agencies including the police to meet increased security demands from both the state and the private industry. While an increasing number of PSCs are establishing regional and international links, the majority are still very local and small, tailoring to niche industrys in the country. …

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