Some locals are so fed up with Albuquerque’s crime problem, they’re taking it upon themselves to help protect businesses from thieves and vandals.
“They climbed up onto the roof, knocked off all the lights, cut off and stole all the cameras,” said Drew Baughman, describing the vandalism at Hot Tubs Albuquerque off Eubank and Constitution.
He said he’s willing to volunteer his own time and resources to protect businesses like Hot Tubs.
“[I’m] tired of sitting back and seeing these businesses get hit over and over,” he said.
The military veteran is a trained level three security guard, meaning he’s qualified to carry a gun.
He has recruited four others like him to keep watch on multiple businesses between Central and Menaul and from Eubank to Juan Tabo. The group is self-titled, “Phase Industries.”
“Forty [businesses] that we check every single night physically on their premises,” he said.
All that work is done without charging a dime until Baughman said he can start a legitimate security company.
It’s an expansion of his high-tech neighborhood watch that KRQE News 13 profiled in 2014. His security watch was complete with computer-aided dispatch to log the calls and map out crimes.
Hot Tubs Albuquerque owner Steve Nelson said the number of break-ins have decreased at his store since Baughman started keeping watch a year ago.
“We desperately need something because most of these crimes are small enough that they don’t fall under the grand theft auto or what police need to be doing,” Nelson added.
But local, paid security company IPS said while the group’s heart is in the right place, volunteer security is not the safest option physically or financially for the guard, or the business the guard is protecting.
“When you go out there and you act as an individual, you don’t have a corporate shied. They can come after your car, your house, your bank account,” IPS President/CEO Aaron Jones said. “The problem is- what happens when they come face to face with somebody and they get involved in a situation. Has the business given them the authorization to do that? And if they do, then the business is taking on that liability, as well.”
Baughman added his group is covered by liability insurance and made it clear that businesses should still call 911 first for emergencies and that their priority is to observe and call police if a situation escalates.
“There can be a liability issue,” Baughman explained. “The rule of thumb is: you [the security guard] see something, you back off, phone calls are made to the police department, and we observe. When the police department gets here, we give them the information and we leave.”