More allegations of brutality by Harbour Centre Guards leads to new lawsuits

Private security guards who patrol Vancouver’s Harbour Centre Mall are again at the centre of lawsuits alleging brutality against low-income people. The lawsuits are being filed by Pivot Legal Society against the Harbour Centre Mall, the security guards and the private security firm Fusion Security on behalf of two new plaintiffs who were brutalized on mall property.

In June of this year, Pivot filed lawsuits and a human rights complaint on behalf of three men, Shawn Alexander, Richard Kreke, and Luis Larrain, who claimed they were dragged into hidden areas of the mall and beaten by guards. Today’s claimants, Michael Freimark and Justin Peturson, came forward with their allegations after hearing the three men’s stories.

Michael Freimark and Justin Peturson were injured by mall security in two separate incidents. Mr. Freimark claims he was outside the mall smoking a cigarette when one of the Harbour Centre guards confronted him for looking at a half used cigarette on the ground. When Mr. Freimark turned his back he was grabbed by the guard and thrown to the ground on his head. Mr. Peturson alleges that two years ago, he was arrested by two Harbour Centre guards and brought into a stairwell adjacent to the B.C. Liquor Store. There, in the same stairwell where Shawn Alexander reported being struck in the head by guards a year later, Mr. Peturson says he was handcuffed to a railing and kicked in the leg by a third guard with heavy boots. Both men attended the hospital after eventually being released by the guards.

“These incidents, if proven, suggest a systemic targeting by the security guards at Harbour Centre against alcoholics and people who appear to be low income over a period of at least 2 years” said Douglas King, Pivot lawyer and policing campaigner.

Just last week Pivot received a complaint from a sixth individual who stated he was arrested by guards on Monday, November 7th, 2011 after standing underneath the awning outside of Harbour Centre to protect himself from the rain. That individual reports being held by guards for 4 hours while waiting for police to arrive. He is currently considering filing a claim against Harbour Centre, or filing a complaint to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, which regulates private security guards in British Columbia.

“Private security guards are an increasing presence on city streets, in malls and other places that most of us experience as public. These lawsuits are about a specific set of circumstances at one location, but we hope they are setting off warning bells for the Province. As the regulators responsible for the private security industry they need to look carefully at their standards and accountability mechanisms because in this case they don't appear to be working” says King.

For more information contact: Douglas King, at (778) 898-6349