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Some LWR residents unhappy with unarmed guards

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Ray Dumont is unhappy the new private security force in Greenbrook are all unarmed. He says some of his fellow residents are unhappy also.

“I think we downgraded in security services,” Dumont said Monday. “We did have armed guards at one point and they were all ex-police officers and now I feel we just have a body in a car.”

Greenbrook and Summerfield/Riverwalk subdivisions both switched from Wackenhut Corp. to Allegiance Security Group for patrol service last month. Residents saved a lot of money on the switch. Dumont thinks too much.

Greenbrook went from roughly $48,000 annually for one Wackenhut guard patrolling 40 hours a week to about $28,000 for the same coverage, said Greenbrook Supervisor Gordon Norquay.

Summerfield and Riverwalk went from about $43,000 annually to roughly $21.500 for 40 hours in their neighborhood, said Summerfield/Riverwalk Supervisor Alan Roth, who also is chairman of his community’s safety awareness committee.

In a criteria that included price and services, Allegiance scored higher than Wackenhut and many other providers.

But it may be false to assume that Greenbrook is getting less for its money.

Lakewood Ranch has never stipulated guards can carry guns, Roth said. But Dumont and others aren’t wrong. Some Wackenhut guards did carry them, said Jean Stewart, a supervisor from Summerfield/Riverwalk. It just wasn’t in writing, Roth said.

Before the request for proposals from new security bidders terms went out, it was decided there would be no guns, Stewart said.

“The supervisors felt it was a safety issue,” Stewart said. “The guards can’t use them anyway.”

“I am not 100 percent against it, but it brings on all kinds of issues that I don’t want to be involved with,” Roth said about guards carrying firearms. “I would hate to see someone get shot and then sue the district.”

Like Allegiance guards, Wackenhut’s could only observe and report to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Roth said.

“It may irritate some residents, but guards can’t grab someone by the scruff of the neck and drag them out of a park after hours,” Roth said.

So, why is there a perception that Wackenhut’s guards were able to do more things?

Most, if not all, of the guards used by Wackenhut were ex-civilian or military police, Norquay said. He said Allegiance hires both former police officers and civilians.

Norquay believes this is the difference residents are sensing.

“I wonder if we can request ex-police officers and military officers for Lakewood Ranch,” Norquay said.

He thinks that issue will come up during today’s accounts and invoices workshops and Thursday’s regular district meetings at Town Hall.

Roth is thinking the same way.

“Each of the guards with Wackenhut seemed to develop a relationship with Manatee County sheriff deputies,” Roth said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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