By: Lawrence Fennelly, CPO
Reprint Protection News
Protection officers are often called upon to evict persons from the property they are hired to protect. Performing this function can involve a host of difficulties that are generally not foreseen by property managers. Property/facility managers simply desire a certain "culture" or ambiance within the boundaries of the facility or property. They leave the details to the protection officers as to how to be the "preservers of the corporate culture". Such a role is complex and challenging. How effectively the security officer can secure the property he/she is employed to protect will determine the degree of legal, operational and safety problems that are confronted. For these reasons, evicting trespassers should be done professionally. Below are a list of recommended practices for controlling trespass to property.
- A polite request to leave should be employed. This can be prefaced with an interview as to what the person is doing so as to better assess the situation. Person will not have to be evicted in every case; some will simply comply with the security officer's request.
- Conduct the process in private as much as possible to preclude acting out behavior in front of an audience as well as to avoid exposure to defamation/invasion of privacy actions.
- Avoid invading the personal space of the evictee! A respectable distance - at least a leg length - must be maintained at all times. When there are indications that the person is violent, this distance should be increased to at least 10 feet. Care should be taken so as not to corner the person when first approaching them or going through a doorway. The latter scenario is a common cause of aggressive behavior when evicting someone from a room.
- Accompany the evictee all the way off the property so as to monitor and influence their behavior. Being too far from the evictee can make them feel unsupervised and rebellious. Acting-out behavior such as shouting, cursing and threatening is likely to escalate. Aside from being detrimental to the decorum, this behavior can incite problems from nearby crowds of people.
- Document the action in a daily log, etc. This lists the basic information regarding a routine eviction. Should there be a substantial problem or the person being evicted has been a problem in the past, a complete Incident Report should be prepared. Also consider video, still shots and audio documentation.
- Evict with a partner/witness. Security officers can use the "Contact/Cover" concept where one officer communicates with the subject and the other oversees from an appropriate distance/location for safety purposes.
- Obtain police assistance if force must be used. Advise police of the problem when calling them. If the person has been violent, threatening or has caused prior disturbances, the police should know this.
- Advise the resistant person of the legal consequences of his/her actions - a trespassing charge as well as any other appropriate charges. Knowledge of the law serves to establish the officer's professionalism and authority; few persons will argue if the officer knows what he/she is doing. Legal knowledge also helps to maintain a positive relationship with local police!
- Use the phrases "private property" or "corporate name (company, college, hospital, etc.) property". Most people have a degree of respect for private property, realize they are on someone else's "turf" and comply with reasonable directions. Even chronic troublemakers are thrown "off guard" by the phrase "private property".
- Give persons being evicted very specific parameters as far as time limits, routes to take, etc. Be fair and firm with this. Document it.
- Enforce only lawful and reasonable rules. If the rules are not clear and concise, do not attempt to enforce them! Ambiguous, unenforceable rules will lead to trouble with police after they are summoned to arrest a trespasser and do not feel obligated to do so. Such encounters destroy the credibility of security, management and the police.
- Consider utilizing prepared notices on company letterhead to mail as certified or registered letters. Such trespass letters should specify the unauthorized activity and dates of occurrence. In public places such as shopping centers, there should be several instances of arrests and evictions indicated as the person is being banned from a whole host of retail establishments. Prepared in a slightly different format, these can also be handed to trespassers. The Retailer's Guide To Loss Prevention and Security by Donald Horan from CRC Press (800-272-7737) provides an excellent discussion of both trespass procedures that can be applied to a retail environment as well as some outstanding tips on establishing relationships with law enforcement agencies.
- Provide the trespasser with the option of behaving or leaving and document that this was done. The trespasser made the decision to remain on the property.
- Discuss with police and other parties such as managers after they have evicted or arrested persons how to improve upon the process. Make sure everyone can share perspectives on the process!
Eviction of trespassers is a challenging undertaking which must be professionally handled in order to insure that civil rights, property rights and the appropriate rules/culture/decorum are preserved. Management representatives - protection officers - who serve as the ambassadors of the organization can do no less.
Become familiar with your state laws on this subject. The trespass law is the greatest tool security has. After he/she has been arrested for trespassing, then they can be searched and if any of your property is found on his/her possession then you can seek additional prosecution.
Closed circuit televisions strategically placed in critical areas will be very helpful to detect unwanted individuals.
Trespassing is a crime and it is covered under various state statutes. Even though it is not a felony, it should be enforced because it also transmits a clear message.
If you have any questions we can be reached at www.litigationconsultants.com or at LAFENN@aol.com
Reproduced from 150 Things You Should Know About Physical Security, Elsevier Science, http://www.elsevier.com