Private security in Toronto Chinatown sparks safety debate

Homeless at Spadina / College

Homeless at Spadina / College

Excerpt from – Allison Hanes, National Post – For a week now, a pair of private security guards have been walking the beat in Toronto’s Chinatown hired by the local BIA. So far more than two dozen “banning orders” have been issued against disruptive undesirables. Dave Wilson,of Toronto Police, complained that lesser-trained employees lower standards…

“Randy Lippert, a sociology professor at the University of Windsor, has studied the trend of BIAs taking charge of local safety. The phenomenon has been imported from the United States, first catching on in Vancouver before sprouting here in Ontario, he said, as resources for community policing drift to technology and major crime.

“Despite its popularity, Prof. Lippert said there are some compelling questions to consider surrounding accountability and training. “Generally speaking, would most people like to have a private security guard making decisions that dramatically affect people’s lives when they’re only getting paid 10 or 11 dollars an hour?” he said. “I’m not saying that all private security people are like that, but certainly you’re starting to scrape the bottom of the labour pool…. A lot of them are wannabe, as they say
‘wanstables,’ people who in some cases didn’t make it.”

[end of excerpt – source National Post]

This is a very compelling and insightful article, well researched and balanced. The main issues would be – what are the private security firms charging the homeless with? That is, what laws are they breaking that a private security guard is authorized to enforce? Provincial trespassing legislation? The streets are public property, and the ground allocated to businesses very narrow, with the exception of their storefront fixtures and entrances – there is no “trespassing” on a public street or sidewalk – the very reason police do not lay trespassing charges against the homeless at City Hall for example. Loitering similarily is not often enforced by police, an outdated law, and difficult to apply in public areas. Also the arrest process must be equivalent to the crime and loitering has no victim and is non-violent, so police may not justify the use of force or restraint to enforce it. How are security guards above the law here? Other “offences” cited in the article include Petty thieving, public intoxication, drug consumption, urination and/or defecation in public, intimidation, prostitution and aggressive panhandling.  Intimidation and aggressive panhandling are specifically provided for in the Safe Streets Act of Ontario and should not be in the jurisdiction of private security firms.

For an update visit the Commentary page by clicking the tab at the top of this page. It’s important that the rights of the public be protected and that includes people who may be homeless. It’s not against the law to be homeless! And it is our duty to protect and help them.

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Intelligarde Security’s Mission: Arrest Homeless, Panhandlers, Referred to as Dirty Bums

A Chinese Gentleman Panhandling on Spadina

A Chinese Gentleman Panhandling on Spadina

Sunmedia, Toronto – Aug.21, 2008 Toronto Sun, by Ian Robertson, Headline: Dirty bum gets tossed

“A panhandler who refused to leave private property after messing his shorts was among 11 rousted at the start of a second week of controversial Chinatown security patrols. The beggar, who refused to stop appealing to passersby for money near Spadina Ave. after he “soiled his silks,” was arrested by Intelligarde Security officers Tuesday, firm founder Ross McLeod said…

Toronto Police Association president Dave Wilson is quoted as saying [private guards] 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.”… [end of excerpt ]

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Here at Project417, I have almost ten years of experience doing outreach to the homeless on the Spadina Chinatown streets. The accompanying photo was taken by me on Spadina, just south of Kensington Market, to illustrate the growing number of elderly Chinese-Canadians who have been forced by community circumstances to resort to panhandling. Of course homelessness knows no race and the homeless panhandlers in Chinatown come from all communties right across the country, but there are a growing number of seniors in Chinatown who appear to have no visible means of support and have taken to the streets.

The threat to public safety through the presence of hired private security firms is real. As well as the assault on human rights, not just of the homeless, but the public who are being confronted and intimidated by what amounts to uniformed thugs on public city sidewalks. Chinatown BIA President, Stephen Chan claims the homeless are blocking doors, aggressively panhandling passers by and even says they are responsible for thefts from cars. The BIA is blind to the real crime problems in their own community and are misguided in targetting the homeless – my next post will outline alarming crime trends in the Spadina Chinatown as well as first hand encounters with Intelligarde bullies.

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