Topic: Private Security Firm Hired to Move Homeless Out of Toronto Chinatown – Part I

:: Part II is here
A Chinese Gentleman Panhandling on Spadina

A Chinese Gentleman Panhandling on Spadina

Toronto’s Spadina Chinatown Business association hired the private security firm Intelligarde for a three week trial period this week (Aug.18th, 2008). The primary reason given for this by the association chairman, Stephen Chan, was to patrol the streets of Spadina/Dundas Chinatown and control and remove homeless and street-involved people who are hurting their business by their presence on sidewalks, near store entrances, and he claims, who are responsible for increased crimes such as petty thefts from cars.

This was widely reported in the news by media in Toronto and right across the country on television, newspapers and the internet. Two Toronto Sun headlines and excerpts from the stories are featured on the main Missionlog blog home. The headlines and comments were posted on the internet news aggregator – (visit the two links below and digg the articles)

Dirty bum gets tossed – Chinatown security guards hand over persistent beggar to cops, 10 others ordered away

Let city handle it, Miller says – Message to Security Guards

Here’s Toronto Mayor, David Miller’s take on the issue:  ” Chinatown shopkeepers should let the city do its job — but with social workers not police officers. Miller said he didn’t support the hiring of a private security firm to patrol the streets of the busy Spadina Avenue Dundas area shopping and dining district and that an expanded Streets to Homes program approved by council and slated to start next week will help.”I think we’re always best to work through official programs, our program works, it’s successful, not just in Chinatown but all over downtown,” Miller said.   “So far more than 2,000 people have been moved off the streets and into shelters and most of them are still being housed there,” he said. Miller said that was the proper way to handle street-level problems.

Here are the comments from Toronto Police Association president Dave Wilson:  “Despite claims [private] guards are taught non-violent intervention, defence and the law, Wilson said they lack the training, dedication and experience of cops. Unlike police, an unarmed uniformed guard can incite people to fight “and we don’t want to be showing up at incidents and having to worry about security guards as well. Policing has a calling and officers are willing to lay their lives on the line,” Wilson said. He blamed the Toronto Police Services Board for not hiring enough officers or okaying shifts that put more on the streets. “What we’re seeing now is pushback by the community, who want these services and police say they don’t have the resources,” he said. Security guards are licensed under regulations by the province, which investigate public complaints about them, but police get closer scrutiny and don’t work for profit-driven private companies, Wilson said. “It’s an important distinction.” [Toronto Sun]

The president of Intelligarde Security, Mr. Ross McLeod was quoted in the Toronto Sun articles also. His comments reveal both his grandiose personal vision for community policing by private security firms (especially his own, Intelligarde) as well as a callous and superficial attitude towards homeless and street-involved people. Of the poor, confused homeless man who they allege defacated in his pants and was persistent in panhandling after warnings to leave, Ross facetiously says he, “soiled his silks” and the Toronto Sun editor had fun translating that into an eye-catching “Dirty Bum” headline.

Here’s more of McLeod’s comments:  “…ten beggars moved on when given orders under provincial trespassing legislation — one of two powers McLeod said private security staff are authorized to use. He said, “Complaining about the $7,000 investment [ the cost of the three week trial only] is ironic, since the city already spends $200 million a year on programs for the homeless. McLeod went on to say he supports offering help, but “some [panhandlers] make $60 a day and they will take all the free housing and handouts they are offered. The only way to deal with them is to frustrate their business. “Nobody said we have the solution,” McLeod said. “But a lot of panhandling dissipates when a uniform shows up, so do prostitutes. I can’t cure sin, but I can chase sinners away.” [Toronto Sun]

My goal here on the Missionlog Commentary web page over the next few days is to provide some insight into this issue of homelessness and private policing of public community property.  I have over seven years experience, first as a volunteer, and presently as a fulltime outreach worker to the homeless in the Spadina – Dundas area and right across downtown Toronto.  Furthermore I have experience in public enforcement – not private security – For several years until 1985, I was a federal Peace Officer with Canada Customs’ Investigations Division here in Toronto and at Pearson Airport with a successful arrest and conviction record and received advanced professional training in defence, intervention, security, surveillance, intelligence and the law including search warrants and Canadian human rights.  Like most private security guards, Customs officers were for many years, unarmed.  Added to this, I’ve met Mr. Ross McLeod on several occasions in person in his offices at Intelligarde and listened to him expound on his corporate plan for private community policing. I also have had an eyeopening encounter with his guards on patrol at Spadina and Dundas and have feedback from the homeless they have been harassing. This three week trial with the BIA is not new to Chinatown.  Individual business owners have been hiring security for patrols for several years.

Visit their website at [Flash plug-in required] to check out their vision statement where they claim that society’s need for social order is not being met by public police forces. They further claim that they can both restore and maintain that social order.

Stay tuned, check back here often – I’ll post excerpts on the main blog page to notify you when new content is added.

:: More to come… check back often!



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