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Marcouch: security guards to have diploma after all

23 April 2008 - Two thirds of Amsterdammers find that surveillance of the public space should not be privatised. However, the Slotervaart district intends to contract fourteen private security guards. District chairman Ahmed Marcouch: "I expect they will operate in a professional manner".

See also: Security guard must have uniform and bicycle

The role of private security guards policing the public space is growing rapidly, Ronald van Steden of the Vrije Universiteit said in December last year. He warned that private guards may be cheaper, but that quality is compromised.

"The profit margins are small, the financial means for training are limited. Municipalities and districts including Slotervaart hire security guards to control problem youth, and they also often try to get the cheapest possible deal", Van Steden told NRC Handelsblad at the time.

The security guards ('toezichthouders') in Slotervaart are provided by multinational G4S. Because the contract is about to expire, the contract has been put up to public tender. In addition to the toezichthouders, private 'street coaches' are active in the district.

The specifications do not contain any criteria regarding the qualifications the toezichthouders working on the street should have. However, district chairman Marcouch says that the idea is form them to have a diploma. "I've been a policeman for ten years myself, so I know that policing is an art. I expect they will operate in a professional manner".

Marcouch says he can understand that Amsterdammers would rather have a real policeman than a private security guard, as a recent study conducted by O+S for the SP revealed. "But we need both. And vigilant citizens as well".

According to the SP, districts contract private security firms because they are cheap and flexible.

In Slotervaart, flexibility does indeed seem to be an important issue. Security guards are expected to change their working hours at the last minute if an event takes place or 'high placed persons' visit the neighbourhood. They are to compensate the hours at a quieter moment.

Marchouch: "The security guards must anticipate the needs of the neighbourhood. They mustn't have an 8 to 4 mentality". Another advantage of private security guards is that they are more easy to direct than the regular police, over whom the district does not have real authority.

The SP is going to critically assess the way in which private security guards are deployed. "Whenever districts clamour for a bunch of thugs, we'll express our views on the issue", council member Laurens Ivens said. This summer, the party will have a debate with Mayor Job Cohen on how the public space is being policed.

Van Steden study , SP study (the latter in Dutch). See also: AT5 documentary by Leonie van Noort (in Dutch). Image: Mayor Cohen with street coaches (photo Edwin van Eis / Amsterdam municipality)


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