Luxembourgh Times

Scrap private security guards, city opposition says

However, it is doubtful if government minister has the authority to terminate contract signed by city officials

City politicians have called on Taina Bofferding, the Minister for Home Affairs, to intervene in the row

City politicians have called on Taina Bofferding, the Minister for Home Affairs, to intervene in the row © Photo credit: Chris Karaba

Luxembourg's government should intervene in a row about crime in the capital, three local opposition political parties said on Thursday, and terminate a contract for private security firm G4S to patrol the streets around the central station.

A dog belonging to a G4S team reportedly bit a member of the public in the area this month, fanning a controversy over the remit of the private security agents put in place by the city's mayor, Lydie Polfer, amid long-standing complaints from local residents about widespread drug dealing and prostitution.

Representatives of the Social Democrats, the LSAP, the Left Party (Déi Lénk) and the Green Party (Déi Gréng) have called on Minister for Home Affairs Taina Bofferding to end the contract, which is due to expire in November.

“Following the serious incident of a dog attack… we call on you to once again intervene… with council officials in order to put an immediate end to this anti-constitutional and illegal agreement,” the parties said in a joint letter to Bofferding.

The three parties have also indicated they intend to discuss a motion to the same effect at the next meeting of Luxembourg City Council, set to take place on Monday. The city is run by a centre-right coalition of the pro-business liberals of the Democratic Party - Polfer's party - and the Christian Democrats, the CSV.

“In the case of refusal on the part of Luxembourg City Council, we call on you to suspend the contract with G4S,” the opposition politicians said.

Mayor clashes with ministers

It is doubtful whether Bofferding has the authority to cancel the contract - as the agreement was signed by city authorities - even if she wishes to do so, having said earlier this year that she saw no issues with the arrangement. “The contract doesn’t seem to me to be in contradiction with the tasks that can be legally delegated to private security firms,” she said in response to a similar request by the parties in February, adding that she could only intervene if there was a case of “a violation of the law”.

Footage from the incident earlier this month when a man was reportedly bitten by a dog belonging to G4S

Footage from the incident earlier this month when a man was reportedly bitten by a dog belonging to G4S © Photo credit: Screenshots Video

Polfer, in an interview with broadcaster RTL, said it was up to residents of the Gare area around the station to decide the future of private security arrangements. Four-fifths of those polled in the district said they wanted more action to improve security, a survey published by Luxembourg City Council in February found, while more than two-thirds said that the presence of private security agents made them feel safer.

“We imagine that... you (Bofferding) certainly share our view that organising local referendums which violate national laws demonstrates unacceptable behaviour on the part of the mayor,” the three parties said in their letter. Should an investigation by the public prosecutor into the reported dog biting incident unearth wrongdoing by the guards, the City may terminate the contract, Polfer has said.

Justice Minister Sam Tanson told a closed-door meeting of the parliamentary justice committee earlier this month she has requested files from G4S to analyse whether private security agents are overstepping their authority.

Residents concerns

Private security agents were hired last year after protesters took to the streets of the Gare district, but the mayor's initiative met with disapproval from the central government. Responding to a parliamentary question in March, Tanson and Minister for Internal Security Henri Kox said there is no legal basis for private security firms to patrol the streets or to maintain public order.

Kox has said that “nothing justifies the privatisation” of maintaining public order, but Polfer has linked the hiring of the private agents to the inaction of central government. The mayor said she has repeatedly asked Kox for more police officers in public places and more closed-circuit cameras.

Luxembourg's largest opposition party, the CSV, also waded into the conflict this month, launching a plan to put more police officers on the streets in visible foot patrols, for video surveillance in the worst areas and to equip police forces with body cams and tasers.