FLASHBACK: Police officers and security officers attached to Amalgamated Security near the Beetham in February 2017. Inset: Gary Griffith, Commissioner of Police.

Government has reignited the Community Comfort Patrol (CCP) initiative piloted by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith in 2014 when he was the Minister of National Security, to assist police officers during the Stay-at-Home period.

However, the Ministry said that “the patrols being provided by the private security firms, have no additional powers outside of their normal powers as private security officers, performing private neighbourhood patrols.”

Current Minister of National Security Stuart Young said that the four private security companies–Amalgamated, Allied, Innovative Technologies and Protective Agencies–were the same ones selected back in 2014 when the CCP initiative was launched.

“The identical neighbourhoods selected in 2014 to be patrolled are the ones being patrolled and importantly this is being done at a cheaper cost than 2014,” Young said.

He did not respond to subsequent questions about the cost of the initiative.

Before Young confirmed that the CCP programme was revitalised, Guardian Media received a copy of instructions given to police which instructed officers to “supply one officer to patrol with Amalgamated Security in your district from 8 pm to 11 pm and one officer from 2 am to 5 am. You are also to inform NDOC of the patrol, its duration, the vehicle number and call sign.”

Before the Ministry confirmed that four companies were retained, Guardian Media received reports from residents at a private housing complex in Cunupia, Savannah Villas in Aranjuez and from residents in Arima that Amalgamated security vehicles were slowly patrolling the area, some with flashing lights.

The lack of communication to the public caused panic at Savannah Villas on Monday night when Amalgamated security personnel attempted to enter the compound and was denied entry by compound security. According to information obtained by Guardian Media, the police later informed compound security that the private security firm was part of the State’s “comfort patrol”.

Guardian Media then sent the following questions to the Young, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of National Security, Attorney General Faris-Al Rawi and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in his capacity as head of the National Security Council.

1. What does the provision of comfort patrol entail?

2. When was Amalgamated retained by the State/Ministry of National Security?

3. What is the duration of this contract/agreement?

4. Is Amalgamated utilising its private vehicles for this service or are they accompanying officers in police vehicles?

5. What is the cost of this contract?

6. Has any other private security company been engaged to assist or is this solely an agreement between the state and ASSL?

While there was no response from the ministers and the Prime Minister, the Ministry of National Security issued a media statement confirming that patrols had begun and would last until May 5, 2020.

Director of the Amalgamated Security Services Ltd (ASSL) John Aboud and managing director of Allied Security Michael Nicholas both confirmed that their respective company has been retained by the Government.

Guardian Media contacted both Aboud and Nicholas before the Ministry’s confirmation.

Aboud yesterday confirmed that the company was retained by the Ministry of National Security and directed all questions to that Ministry.

“Those questions really should be directed to the Ministry of National Security,” he said.

“All I can tell you is that there are a number of security companies involved in the exercise, it is not Amalgamated alone, several companies are involved in this initiative by the Ministry of National Security,” Aboud said.

“Other than that I am not at liberty to tell you much because the client would have to tell you about it but the exercise to keep eyes and ears out there,” he said adding that “several companies involved”.

Aboud said he communicated with the Ministry of National Security after questions from Guardian Media.

“The Ministry should answer you, I sent an email and I’m telling them that the press is asking us questions and I asked them to give us directions,” he said.

“I am happy to answer all the questions because there is nothing untoward in terms of not being able to answer but out of respect for the client, I think they client should answer, because I think what they’re doing is a good thing,” he said.

Nicholas confirmed the new arrangement.

“It is simply a re-establishment of a previous exercise we did for the government a few years ago,” he said.

“It’s only short term,” Nicholas said.

He said the security companies were expected to assist with helping enforce some of the new restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 issue.

The Ministry did not say what this initiative is costing the State.

“This initiative is being employed in order to enhance the national security response and support recent measures instituted by the Government,” the release said.

The initiative is expected to “mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus”.

“These patrols shall be conducted in residential communities using marked vehicles and shall maintain real-time communications with the National Operations Fusion Centre (NOFC),” the release stated.

“This initiative will be monitored for quality and its operating parameters adjusted accordingly as necessary,” the press statement said.

Griffith, in a subsequent interview, said that the security officers were not provided with any new authority. They were instructed to patrol is residential areas, outside of the known “hot-spots” and to call the police directly if need be.

He also said that all security personnel must check-in at the district police stations to log in with their name, area of patrol and duration of patrol.

“They were not given any additional authority. They will act as a deterrent because of the high visibility and would act as additional eyes and ears within communities,” he said.

“The TTPS was asked to patrol and lock down the entire country and they are helping us keep an eye out,” he said.