Private security in capital under further scrutiny after dog attack
The controversy surrounding Luxembourg City's use of private security firms to patrol the streets of the capital has attracted renewed criticism after a guard dog reportedly shook off its muzzle and bit a member of the public on Saturday, exposing a row between local and national authorities over responsibilities for policing the city.
The incident has led lawmakers to hit out at City Mayor Lydie Polfer's decision last year to employ private security firms to patrol the streets in response to long-standing complaints about drug-trafficking and prostitution around the capital city's main train station.
The public prosecutor has opened an investigation into the attack on Avenue de la Gare late on Saturday evening. A video capturing the incident appeared to show a private security firm’s dog hanging onto a man’s leg for at least 30 seconds while guards struggled to control the animal. When police officers arrived, they found a man with a bite wound on his leg and he was taken to hospital, police said. He was later taken into custody after being abusive with hospital staff, police added.
There is no legal basis for private security firms to patrol the streets or to maintain public order, Justice Minister Sam Tanson and Minister for Internal Security Henri Kox said in response to a parliamentary question in March.
However, this did not stop Polfer from signing a new contract with a private security firm in May. She has been at odds with Kox over police shortages, demanding more officers on the streets of the capital to fight drug dealers and thieves.
Kox has said that “nothing justifies the privatisation” of security services to maintain public order, but Polfer has linked the hiring of the private agents to the inaction of central government. The mayor has previously said she has repeatedly asked Kox for more police officers in the capital's public places and more closed-circuit cameras.
In a tweet on Sunday, Green lawmaker and city councillor François Benoy wrote: "It is already a matter of public knowledge that we [the Greens] are against public surveillance by private security firms - but the images from the [Avenue de la Gare] shocked me and raised questions. We had grave concerns particularly regarding the way guard dogs are used.”
Despite the question of legality, the measure has broad support from locals who have been protesting against crime in their area for years. Four-fifths of those polled in the city's Gare district said they wanted more action to improve security, a survey published by Luxembourg City Council in February found. More than two-thirds said that the presence of private security agents made them feel safer.
Yet, private security agents patrolling parts of Luxembourg City have sometimes overstepped their authority, Tanson said in May. There have been reports that the hired security teams have ordered people to move from private and public places, which they are not authorised to do, Tanson said in a written response to a parliamentary question.
Additional reporting by John Monaghan