A security firm has been given the green light by the Bermuda Police Service to step up patrols neighbourhoods and the City of Hamilton to combat crime.
The new city patrol programme launched by Security Associates last year to stop vagrants from loitering on the doorstep of city businesses is set to expand in April.
CEO Carlton Crockwell Sr disclosed the plans include more city bike patrols during the day and night-time patrols in vans at night in various areas.
Mr Crockwell also disclosed that the impact of crime has spiked demand for security alarm system installations, which is up by 15 percent.
Fuelled by high rates of unemployment in a recessionary climate, he said the local security business will never be the same and the Bermuda we once knew is gone.
“We accept the fact that not just in Bermuda but around the world this problem is very real,” said Mr Crockwell.
“People are out of jobs, some people are being a nuisance and police are very busy dealing with hard crime.
“Security has now become that source of backup, security companies are taking up that slack to become a major source of backup support for the police.
“Since June we’ve seen a 15 percent increase in the number of alarm systems installed in households and businesses solely because of crime.
“The number of alarm responses, especially when residents vacate their premises to go abroad for vacations or business, is stunning.”
The company used to respond to an average of 30 security system alarms a month, that number has gone up to 50.
“We never used to have that many and our staff is busy, 24-hours-a-day, with supervisors on from midnight-to-midnight, seven-days-a-week, and it’s solely because of crime.
“As economic hard times things get harder we’re in the process of expanding our entire operations to neighbourhood and city patrols.
“Where police cannot do patrols because of manpower or because they are too busy dealing with hard crime, we can provide the service.
“We plan to roll this out for April 1 with more services like residential patrols all night starting from 10pm. We have some areas on board already and the residents split the costs.
“What we’ve found is that people get a level of comfort from seeing our security vans patrolling their neighbourhoods at night,” he said.
“We have police approval which came late last year when they gave the thumbs up and we’re looking to expand this year.”
The areas covered by city bike patrols will also be expanded.
“We cover Front Street and Reid Street, but we want to extend it to the Court Street and other areas. Another central area covered is Pitts Bay Road, which used to be a trouble spot,” he said.
Front Street continues to be the main trouble spot after 10pm. But they’re also finding street savvy vagrants who know where they can or cannot sleep.
“These guys are no fools,” said Mr Crockwell. “They’ve got street smarts and they know who’s who, they’re not dummies.”
Asked if he felt that by moving them from one place to another merely keeps them out of sight and out of mind he replied: “It’s an approach. A Band-Aid approach it may be to some people, but our clients want them moved.”
One client wrote: “I’m very impressed with the bike patrols. It’s proactive activity and money well spent and it has made a visible difference very quickly.”
The City of Hamilton is also on the list of clients in addition to businesses like the two Arnold’s Express stores in Hamilton.
“Arnold’s has been on board since mid August because they had guys buying the small miniatures and drinking right outside the store being a nuisance,” said Mr Crockwell.
“We put a plan in place with a team that worked on it, not just at the Church Street store but at the store on Front Street as well.
“We worked on it heavily and now its controlled, we’ve also made strides at City Hall car park . It’s not too bad now, they’re still cleaning cars there and that’s a good thing because everyone has to eat,” he said.
“But now you don’t have to worry about someone coming after you, harassing you for money and that’s a blessing. My wife works in town and I’m always concerned, but now, like others I’m relieved.
“What really disturbs me is the number of young men who are drinking heavily and living on the streets, young men in their early 20s,” he said.
“A lot of that is due to unemployment, but despite all the anti-drug education we’ve had, it still hasn’t subsided.
“We’re seeing more young men sleeping on the streets sleeping in doorways and being asked to leave. I was walking one morning and saw two of them sleeping in a doorway on Front Street.
“When asked to move they simply got up and went to another area to go back to sleep. With nowhere to go and so young, it’s troubling,” said Mr Crockwell.
“It’s a sign of the times and it’s not just one or two anymore, it’s really sad when you compare them to the older men who have been on the streets for years.
“It bothers me because the deeper core issues cannot be ignored,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say it has gotten any worse, we haven’t seen any new characters based on what I was told in my latest report. What troubles me most is we’re seeing the same characters who are getting a lot younger and that to me is definitely not good.”