ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Private security guards at stores in Albuquerque are a common sight to see. But what jurisdiction do these security guards have when it comes to addressing suspected criminals?
KRQE News 13 spoke to Aaron T. Jones, the CEO of private security firm International Protective Service, Inc. (IPS) and Carrie Cochran, division counsel for Boards and Commissions at the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, to find out.
Cochran and Jones said private security guards in New Mexico are only allowed to detain someone who is suspected of committing a crime. “You can, you know, detain that person and, you know, hold them until law enforcement arrives because they are in the commission of a crime. But again, that’s kind of where the authority ends,” said Cochran.
Jones, who is a New Mexico native and former member of law enforcement, started IPS in 2006 and chose Albuquerque for its headquarters. His company now offers commercial and residential private security services in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, California, Washington, Nevada, Oregon, and Florida.
Jones said laws pertaining to private security guards and citizen’s arrest differ by state.
“There is no New Mexico statute that specifically addresses citizen’s arrest. It’s deeply rooted in common law and New Mexico courts have only extended the doctrine of common law to incidences where, you know, a private citizen actually witnesses a felony occurring,” Cochran added. Jones said IPS’ private security officers in Albuquerque will often place someone in handcuffs and detain them until law enforcement arrives.
Officers are limited in where they can take detainees before law enforcement arrives. “A security officer or anyone that is licensed under the Private Investigations Act does not have the authority to transport. So, they can essentially arrest and detain and wait for law enforcement, but they cannot transport that individual to another location,” Cochran said while explaining that private security officers can’t take people off the property where they were detained.
IPS officers will sometimes take detainees to a loss prevention office or out of the public eye while waiting for law enforcement to arrive, Jones said.
IPS has been contracted by some big box stores such as Target, Walmart, and Best Buy, as well as small mom-and-pop stores, according to Jones. Each store has its own goals for private security officers. Jones said IPS has been hired at a lot of stores to address violent crime. “But main thing we’re there for is anti-active shooter, anti-armed robbery, and then aggravated type situations in general. We’re not there generally to get involved in shoplifting situations, but there to back the store up. We will get involved if someone does get violent,” Jones explained.
Jones said that one of the biggest issues IPS faces is waiting for law enforcement in Albuquerque to arrive after IPS officers detain someone. “Law enforcement is so busy with dealing with all kinds of crime that unfortunately, even on a major level, a lot of times the officers aren’t able to get there in a timely manner. And then, many times, we have to release the individuals depending on the severity of the crime. Though sometimes we will push that envelope, especially if they are armed with a firearm and we have reason to believe they’re a convicted felon,” Jones said.
Jones added that he recently attended an event with Albuquerque leaders, local law enforcement, the attorney general, the district attorney, and others to discuss crime prevention in the Albuquerque metro area.
Jones believes IPS guards have helped serve as a deterrent to crime and have provided peace of mind for businesses and community members.