Baltimore — In some areas of Baltimore, the city police are short of hundreds of officers, so they hire private security guards to reduce crime.
These civilian security forces are in the spotlight following Friday’s shootings in Harbor East. Armed security at Harbor East then shot the suspected shoplifter in the face.
The incident raised questions about the power and accountability of private security forces.
“It’s important to know these people [are subject] Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen told WJZ investigator Mike Hellgren:
Cohen represents Harbor East,where the Business Improvement District provides additional security.
“Businesses pay surcharges to get extra cleaning, greening, and security,” said Cohen. “It creates another layer of security that can raise accountability issues.”
The Harbor East Community employs its own additional security guards. A representative did not respond to WJZ’s request for comment.
On Monday, police provided an update, saying the 33-year-old shoplifting suspect is now in stable condition at a hospital.
The incident took place inside the CVS on Fleet Street. The man allegedly threatened a security guard with a syringe.
CVS said the security guards “are not employed by or for our store” and instead work in the Harbor East community.
“The situation is really unfortunate,” Cohen said. “But I have never heard of any security guards being held criminally responsible.”
There’s nothing wrong with having some form of neighborhood patrol, Cohen said. But it must be strictly regulated, he said.
Neighborhoods throughout the city rely on civilian security, extra eyes and ears. Shomrim On patrol on Federal Hill in northwest Baltimore.
“One of our neighbors was carjacked, so our group said, ‘What are we going to do?'” said Ian Newman.
NeumannOn Federal Hill after a wave of violent crime.
The added security is paid for through donations. Guards are unarmed, provide visible patrol Five days in a week.
“I would say it’s been a success, especially around the park,” says Neuman.
He said the guards did not have the power to make arrests. In fact, if something isn’t working, they say, “You should call 911.”
“I don’t have the strength to hit someone,” Neumann said. “I have no power to handcuff you.”
He said security guards report suspicious activity directly to police, and although he acknowledges that not everyone is behind the effort, he hasn’t given it a second thought.
“I would definitely do it again. That’s why I said help other areas. I think it’s a way to supplement the police,” Neumann said. “We’re not going to stop everything that’s going on. It wasn’t meant to be.”