Violence divides America

Vi Menn (Engl. Translation)
They protect rich Americans

Violence divides America

America lives in fear of robber, violence and murder. Some people protect themselves with the help of professional security forces. Others isolate themselves behind walls in private communities.

Text by Inger Fermann

They are dressed in black commando uniforms, wear bulletproof vests and carry heavy revolvers. They are equipped with the very latest in surveillance technology and have specially trained dogs purchased from the French Armed Forces. As a rule, however, they do not need to use their 357 Magnums. They generally solve the problem before it gets to that stage.

These “men in black” are employed by one of the divisions of Critical Intervention Services (CIS), a private security company with headquarters in Tampa, Florida. They are trained to fight urban crime, but their methods are somewhat unconventional. Their real weapons are cooperation and dialog, rather than the use of force.

They work in high-crime urban areas in an America that feels increasingly terrorized by violence, burglaries and robberies. Shootings and gang wars on the streets and drug sales going on every street corner have led to an ever-larger number of Americans sitting isolated behind locked doors.

CIS goes into housing areas where neither the federal police nor conventional security companies are willing to work any longer. On their many patrols in these most dangerous neighborhoods, they eventually come to know the residents personally, and become friends with their kids, in particular.

Close contact

This was exactly the goal of K.C. Poulin, 30, in 1992, when he founded CIS with an initial capital of two thousand dollar, which he borrowed from his father. Since then, the company has grown tremendously, and now covers most of the areas requiring security efforts.

Poulin’s objective was to make especially violent neighborhoods safer places to live in. The basic concept was for his men to earn people’s confidence, establish a close, direct contact with a group of neighbors, regardless of race or color.

They do this by becoming friends with the kids, playing football or other games with them, and doing things like giving the poorest children Christmas presents. Their main job is to be a latter day version of the old style neighborhood cop.

“Their relationship with the kids is of crucial importance,” says Poulin, since after kids turn 13 or 14, it’s practically impossible to rehabilitate those who have already gone the wrong way.”

“We have to act now. Go out on the streets, get to know people who live in the roughest areas, and work with them,” Poulin declares.

His customers are generally the owners of rental apartments in problem neighborhoods. Poulin also wants to work with them, but expects them to do their share. One of his requirements for a contract with CIS is that the rental apartment landlords clean up the apartment houses and ensure that the outdoor lighting works.

This formula has produced results. In neighborhoods patrolled by CIS, criminality quickly decreases by half, and often completely disappears over time.

Golden ghettos

Rich Americans have found another solution to the problem of violence. Many of them have found contentment in splendid isolation, not just from the surrounding neighborhood, but from the entire society as well.

Up to 15,000 people live in each small, private community, built like bunkers, and surrounded by high walls. The few strategically-located “town gates” are thoroughly guarded, and the streets are patrolled day and night by armed community guards. The rules of the town are strict, and must be followed by all those who have chosen to live there.

The first golden, ghetto which set the standard for the others was built in 1968, in California, about 100 km from Los Angeles, by a few wealthy families. They called it “a little piece of paradise,” and built 4,800 homes of various sizes on a large area protected by a three-meter high wall and barbed wire.

Before anyone is allowed in through the gate, he or she is checked against a list of residents and guests. There is a limit of six guests a day for any resident. Residents are fined if they go for a walk in the area without their ID card.

Uniformity is the key word that controls everything. The color of the house, the hedges, the height of the grass—all must comply with the decisions of the management. Cars are not allowed to be driven in the area, and may not be parked outside a house, only in the garage.

Golden ghettos have golf and tennis courts, restaurants, clubs, swimming pools and schools. The only contact the residents have with the outside world is through their work. All this gives rise to a total rejection of deviations, and the isolationist mentality of the residents continues to increase.

Escape from reality

Today more than eight million people live in these communities throughout the United States. Instead of “a piece of paradise,” many people would rather call these communities, “a little bit of hell.”

“I can see the negative sides of this system, but we moved here to protect our two daughters,” says Paul Kastes, a member of the Board of Directors of East Lake Woodland, just north of Tampa.

“If you can afford this, you have a choice, just as you can choose a private or public school. We use newspapers and television to show our daughters what is happening in the world around us, and they see how fortunate they are to live here.

To Poulin, the head of CIS, this kind of talk is devoid of common sense.

“There is no logic in protecting yourself from these problems by locking yourself inside over-protective walls,” he explains.

“These problems will grow outside, and it is only a matter of time before they will hit these bunker communities as well. After all, these remain as ticking time bombs, and create an even larger gap between rich and poor in a country that already has a much too large gap.

“The kids in there grow up in a refuge, with an idea that life is a pretty picture. They are totally unprepared for the realities that exist in the real world, outside the high walls.

Poulin views America with concern, as a country where neighborhoods are separated from each other by electric fences and armed guards. “What is happening to the idea of a unified American nation,” he asks. “Are we trying to create a Disunited States?”

CIS STOP Operations in Response to Crime in Urban Communities

The O’Reilly Factor (1997)

Interview between Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly and CIS President K.C. Poulin. The topic is CIS STOP operations in response to crime in urban communities. Originally aired on The O’Reilly Factor in 1997.

Video: O’Reilly Factor, Part 1

Video: O’Reilly Factor, Part 2

Your Own Private Army: Cashing In On Fighting Crime

Taipan Magazine
February 1997

When Taipan’s James Passin traveled to Russia last year, he knew what he was getting into.

Just two days after his departure, an American, financially involved in the Moscow Radisson (where James stayed), was mowed down by an assailant firing a Kalashnikov submachine gun. (The American had been fighting a legal battle with Moscow city authorities over control of the hotel. He lost.)

In post-communist Russia, this is par for the course. Hits are frequent and cheap in Russia. More than 1,500 people were murdered in Moscow during 1996. According to our sources close to the Russian mob, you can hire a hitman for as low as US$100 — as long as you pay in greenbacks.

Unfortunately, the same economics apply in the U.S. Depending on what part of the country you’re in and the economy of the region, you can hire a professional killer for just US$1000.

But as Taipan recently discovered, businessmen traveling to hotspots can hire private security forces which rival today’s SWAT teams. In fact, private security forces have become so popular and effective that neighborhoods are entering the bidding wars for these companies.

Cashing in on crime

Last year, businesses and communities spent a total of US$62 billion on private security firms, compared to the US$40 billion public outlay for police.

With the increase in demand and new companies entering the market every year, estimates put private police services at US$110 billion by the year 2000.

One such company which has become a leader in the industry is Critical Intervention Services. They specialize in protecting high-profile execs, companies, and neighborhoods.

Dress to kill

Dressed in all-black uniforms-from their spit-polished combat boots to bulletproof vests–CIS officers dress to intimidate the bad guys. If their militant garb doesn’t impress, these ninja-looking soldiers patrol with .357 Magnum pistols at their hip.

Prepared and packing

When confronted by criminals–who usually outgun and out-equip their police counterparts–CIS officers don the latest in high-tech crime fighting gadgetry: sophisticated heat detectors, night-vision scopes, video cameras and sound boosters for surveillance.

Such a show of force would probably spur outcries in a suburb or cozy office building. But CIS mainly concentrates on a market underserved by both police and the private security industry: low-income, high-crime private housing developments.

No rent-a-cops here

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking these private security officers are police academy dropouts or ex-bar bouncers.

The fact is, only 10% of CIS applicants pass a screening that includes psychological testing, and 70% of these drop out during the 6-month probation. All CIS guards are certified by the state, and as such must complete 68 hours of training.

The company requires its employees to take at least 80 hours of additional training annually.

Decreased crime

CIS’s rigorous training regimen is reflected in the area’s crime statistics. Since starting in 1991 in Tampa Bay, Florida, CIS has cut down on crime in 50 of Florida’s high-crime apartment complexes by a whopping average of 50%.

This drop in crime is due to CIS’s sheer presence in these areas. In the area of actual law enforcement, CIS forces have limited arrest powers. Mainly they turn up the heat: monitoring drug dealers’ movements, issuing trespass warnings to intruders, and prodding landlords to issue eviction notices.

Job specialization

In addition to CIS’s training, officers have three fields of service from which to choose: Corporate Services, Uniformed Services, and Patrol Services.

In the Corporate Services division, CIS officers are employed by companies to serve vital security roles required in a corporate environment. They are frequently hired to patrol high-level offices and conferences.

CIS also officers an executive-protection service… protecting high-profile businessmen, celebrities, and politicians from robbery, assassination, and kidnapping. The Uniformed division supplies communities and businesses with competent, qualified security forces wearing the standard black uniform.

Winning their hearts and minds

CIS does more than just beef up security – they’re winning the trust and loyalty of the residents and customers they serve by becoming vital and friendly members of the community. Just one of their methods is giving kids Christmas presents.

This is probably the biggest part of their job, because if the community is against them, nobody will cooperate in giving information–something CIS guards rely on heavily.

Booming business beating bad guys

In just 5 years in business, CIS has gone from US$35,000 in annual revenue to more than US$2 million. But that’s nothing compared to what the company will make in the 21st century. With violent crime rampant in urban America, CIS has more business than it can handle.

Want to financially benefit from crime by becoming a franchiser of security forces — and wear a big, shiny deputy’s badge?

Contact K.C. Poulin, President, at Critical Intervention Services, 1265 South Missouri Avenue, Clearwater, FL 34616; tel. (813) 461-9417; fax (813) 449-1269.

Complex Aims to Evict Dealers

The Tampa Tribune
By Paulo Lima

North Tampa – Fed up with crack dealers crowding their sidewalks, officials at Wisperwood Apartments began fighting back last week.

From Monday to Wednesday nights, Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies and private security guards hired by management saturated the complex to begin the cleanup.

Deputies from the sheriff’s street crimes unit made 23 arrests, seized three cars and confiscated three handguns in just three nights, said Sgt. Jim Hicks. Hicks said the complex is a well-established drug hole where locals go to buy and sell crack, powder cocaine, and marijuana.

“There was so much traffic through there they had to gate two of the three entrances,” Hicks said.

Evidence gathered by deputies suggests it was a thriving marketplace.

One of the men arrested Tuesday night was carrying 30 individually bagged pieces of crack in his pockets, each worth $10 to $20 per rock, Hicks said. Another couple was carrying a 39-gram crack “cookie” Hicks said. A cookie is a large chunk of recently manufactured crack.

Hicks credited the operation’s success to deputies’ cooperation with Critical Intervention Services, a private security firm hired by complex management. Acting as agents of the complex, the security guards are allowed to issue trespass warnings to non-residents. Those who return are then subject to a criminal charge and are fair game for sheriff deputies.

Many of the people who ended up in jail began as trespassers, Hicks said. Some of those arrested were dealers known to Hicks’ deputies, who routinely work street-level drug dealing. Some of the arrested were jailed on outstanding warrants.

While there was little opposition to the anti-drug efforts, some residents have reservations about what they call heavy-handed tactics employed by the security guards, whom residents have dubbed “men in black” because of their all-black uniforms.

“This place is a jail,” said one resident taking her lunch break on her front patio. “They need to change the name of this place to Wisperwood Correctional Facility.”

The woman, who did not want to give her name, said she’s lived there three years and was upset that she could not receive visitors without them being harassed by security on their way to her apartment.

One mother of four called it a small price to pay in exchange for some peace of mind.

“They [security] are being rough, but I think that’s the only way they’re going to clean this place up,” said Allendys Gonell, “Who wants to live here when you can’t let your kids go outside to play?”

Gonell and her neighbors were united in their hope that management will focus its efforts on maintaining the apartments.

A drive through the complex just east of Florida Avenue between 124th and 127th avenues reveals a run-down property. The paint is old and gray, the landscaping a view of dirt patches. Abandoned shopping carts litter the parking lots. Trash bags spill from around the trash bin in the corner of a parking lot.

Maintenance is step 2 of the revitalization plan, said Bob Ballard, regional vice president of Sunchase American, the complex’s management company.

Ballard said the company plans a fresh paint job, a new parking lot, and some spruced-up landscaping after the crime problem is addressed. He pointed out a crackdown on eyesores already has begun.

As for the security guards, Ballard said the restrictions will be eased in the coming days. Currently, three guards patrol the property from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Ballard hopes things quiet enough that only periodic patrols will be needed.

Landlords Turn to ‘Commando’ Patrols

The Wall Street Journal
By Joseph N. Boyce, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
September 16, 1996

Break-ins, shootings and drug dealing threatened to overwhelm the Township Apartments complex in Tampa, Fla., this spring. “Residents were scared to come home at night,” recalls Diana Perry, the assistant manager. “Parents wouldn’t let their kids outside.”

That was before the landlord struck back by hiring Critical Intervention Services, a small company that is bringing SWAT-team tactics to the private-security business.

Dressed all in black–from their spit-polished combat boots to bulletproof vests–the CIS officers now patrol the premises with .357 Magnum pistols, Mace and two-way radios. Neighborhood kids have dubbed them “Ninjas” and “Robocops.”

“We dress to intimidate the bad guys–we’re not here to play,” explains CIS’s 30-year-old founder and chief executive, K.C. Poulin.

Such a show of force would probably spur outcries in a suburb or office building. But CIS concentrates on a market underserved by both police and the private-security industry: low income, high-crime private housing developments. And there, most law-abiding residents welcome the Ninjas. “The trouble ended once they came,” says Ms. Perry of Township Apartments.

A close look at CIS offers a glimpse of the future. The $52 billion spent annually in the U.S. for private security outpaces the $30 billion public outlay for police, according to a 1990 study by a research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. The study also projects that by the year 2000, public expenditures will rise to $44 billion, while those for private services are expected to double to $104 billion.

Along with growth have come big problems, including a high number of cases in which private guards have committed crimes. Ira. S. Somerson, chief executive of Loss Management Consultants, a Philadelphia company that advises business and government on security matters, notes that the average public policeman gets between 400 and 600 hours of preservice training at a certified academy, but private guards average between four and eight hours of training. “Far too many are underpaid, undertrained and psychologically unqualified,” Mr. Somerson Says.

CIS, however, stresses training. All CIS guards are certified by the state, and as such must complete 68 hours of training. The company requires them to take at least 80 hours of additional training annually. Their starting pay is $7 an hour—about $2 above the average. They get overtime pay plus medical, dental and life insurance and a 401(k) retirement plan.

Only 10% of CIS applicants pass a screening that includes psychological testing, and 70% of these wash out during a six-month probation. In an industry where the annual turnover is about 200%, most of CIS’s 40 permanent officers have been with the company at least two years.

In the more than 50 Florida apartment complexes patrolled by CIS, crime has dropped by an average of 50%, Mr. Poulin claims. Local police acknowledge that calls for their services drop in areas patrolled by CIS guards, but they can’t quantify the company’s impact on crime.

Nancy Montijo doesn’t need statistics. The 25-year-old resident of the Villages of Naranja apartments in Miami says that the complex was troubled by fights, loud music and “riffraff” visitors until CIS began patrolling there a few weeks ago. Friends had stopped visiting and “we stayed locked up in our apartment,” says Ms. Montijo, who is married and has two small children. With CIS, the pool has been reopened and things are now “completely quiet,” she says.

The Ninjas have limited arrest powers. Mainly, they turn up the heat: monitoring drug dealers’ movements, issuing trespass warnings to intruders and prodding landlords to issue eviction notices. Landlords who don’t cooperate risk termination of their CIS contract. “I’m not going to sent my guys into a combat zone without support from the client,” says Mr. Poulin, whose close-cropped haircut and athletic build reflect a career in private security that began at age 14 as an after-school police cadet.

As long as they confine themselves to private property, CIS teams in battle regalia don’t worry David Walchak, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He says he would be concerned if they tried “to exercise that type of authority on the public streets.”

Besides maintaining a tough anticrime posture, CIS requires its officers to make a concerted effort to win the trust of those they guard, even playing ball with neighborhood kids or helping them with homework. “Once you get to know the kids and the parents, crime goes down,” Mr. Poulin says.

He recalls the time a nine-year-old boy whom his guards had befriended piped up the name of a suspect in a weapons complaint he was investigating. The boy’s mother, who had been afraid to identify the gunman, then corroborated the youngster’s account.

Maj. Robert DeLuna of the sheriff’s office in Tampa says CIS officers “not only come in and assist us, but they’re committed to the community. I never encountered that before.” He says his department handles 600,000 emergency calls annually and has yet to get a complaint about a CIS officer.

Barbara Jones, who works in the sheriff’s office and lives near some CIS-patrolled apartments, admits that the Ninjas initially intimidated her. “They looked like storm troopers,” she says. But she has been impressed by their rapport with the community, particularly young people. “It didn’t take me very long to see the difference they made,” she says.

Mr. Poulin made neighborhood outreach part of his officers’ job, because “We’d rather have kids look up to us than to the street dealer.” His guards distribute Christmas presents to needy youngsters, and this summer they passed out 3,000 replicas of their badges to “junior officers.” Now CIS considering awarding the badges for good school performance.

Since Mr. Poulin founded the company in 1991 with a $2,000 loan from his father, Alain, annual revenue has grown from $35,000 to an estimated $2 million this year, he says. To attract business, he initially set his fees low – under $9 an hour per guard. Over the past three years they have been raised to around $15 an hour, more in line with the competition and more reflective of his costs.

CIS officers employ sophisticated heat detectors, nigh-vision scopes, video cameras and sound boosters for surveillance. Their two-way radios cost $1,000 each, and the company recently spent $3,400 on a pair of dogs for its canine unit.

Today, CIS has more business than it can handle, some of it from developments where drug dealers have resettled after ejection from other CIS-protected properties. It has expanded beyond Tampa to properties in the Miami, Jacksonville and Orlando areas and is beefing up the executive-protection arm of the business. As CIS grows, Mr. Poulin worries about maintaining standards. “I’m not going to take a contract if I can’t find the right people” to service it, he insists.

CIS’s emphasis on quality control consigns it to remaining a “very small niche player” in the industry, says Mr. Somerson, of Loss Management Consultants. While he applauds Mr. Poulin’s strategy as effective, he adds: “What he is doing is really a social service rather than a law-enforcement service.”

That distinction doesn’t matter to Efthymios Kalyvas, owner of St. James Place, a 126-unit complex with 850 residents near Tampa. “It was the worst place in the neighborhood” before he hired the Ninjas several months ago, he says. Now, he adds, “trouble is down 95%.”