Businesses turn to private security force to combat homelessness issues

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DENVER -- Increased homelessness, drug abuse and prostitution are big city problems that Denver-area business owners say are getting worse.

With police officers busy enough as it is, more property owners are turning to private security teams for help.

Suited up like police officers, trained private security professionals are working around the clock to clear out some of the Front Range’s most unsavory activities.

Guards with guns, handcuffs and even dogs spend their days spot-checking various client properties.

“The homeless population brings probably 60 to 70 percent of our business,” Front Range Patrol Cmdr. John Arundale said.

Assault, drug abuse and trespassing are some of the daily complaints from business owners to Front Range Patrol.

“Typically, anytime [trespassers] see us … they’re already trying to pack up to leave,” one of the guards said.

Front Range Patrol has been around since the late 1980s. It provides standard security services, but lately more of their work has been dedicated to trespassing sweeps.

The sweeps are something sworn police officers don’t always have time to do.

“The police are extremely busy with more serious crimes,” Arundale said.

The guards said they start with warnings. If those don’t work, police are called to issue citations or arrest repeat offenders.

Front Range Patrol has a cooperative relationship with police, but its relationship with many of those suffering from homelessness is complicated.

“They come, wake us up, put a flashlight on your face,” one Denver homeless woman said.

The guards’ jobs at times require force but are also matched with empathy. Front Range Patrol said it routinely suggests shelters for those on the streets, even if the advice is not always followed.

“We leave and then when they go, we come back,” one homeless person said.

It’s a tough job that shows no signs of slowing down.

Most of the Front Range Patrol security guards have military and law enforcement backgrounds. The company said its employees receive weekly training.

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