Malls in Finland are often multipurpose spaces with access to municipal public services and transport in addition to shopping and other leisure activities. The mall featured in Close Watch is one of the country’s largest and includes a public transport hub, library, youth club, public health centre, private dental clinic, blood donation point, social security and benefits office, office for rent-controlled housing, employment information point and chapel, as well as services for mental health and substance abuse, immigrants, pregnant people and small children. While private malls are considered public spaces, they can apply for permission to contract a private security company to maintain public order in addition to protecting property.
Types of Security Guards
Mall guards (legally Security Officers) are hired by the mall to maintain public order and safety across the entire ‘property area’, which often includes the surrounding streets, as defined in the police-approved guarding agreement. Guards cannot deny anyone access to the mall because it is public space, but they can remove a person demonstrating disruptive behaviour. Disruptive behaviour is context dependent. In malls, the guards must assess and define it in accordance with what is deemed appropriate for a public space, while remaining non-discriminatory. Behaviour that violates mall regulations and results in interventions includes drinking alcohol, sleeping, sitting on the stairs or floor, fighting – even in play – handing out flyers, collecting signatures for a petition or similar, collecting money for a charity and selling The Big Issue.
Metro guards (legally Security Officers) are hired by the public transportation company to work on metro trains and at the stations. They have the same rights as the mall Security Officers. Mall guards may remove a person from the premises and onto the metro, and metro guards may remove a person from the station and into the mall. If the person removed is a significant threat, the metro guards communicate the situation to the guards in the next location. Although guard intervention can never be based on a customer’s previous behaviour, this could result in denial of access in some cases. For example, peaceful demonstrations are allowed in a mall, but if the metro guards report that demonstrators approaching the mall from the metro station are behaving violently, the mall guards can deny access to the demonstrators.
Municipal Facility Guards
These guards (legally Security Officers) are hired directly by the municipality to work in the municipal services area of the mall. They have the same rights as the mall Security Officers and often deal with situations in collaboration with mall guards. According to Finnish law, it is only possible to contract private security to maintain public order in the following locations: malls, public transport vehicles and stations, airports, ports, social service and healthcare providers, unemployment offices, social welfare service points and reception centres for asylum seekers. Guards can never operate in public spaces such as streets, squares, parks, beaches, sport fields, cemeteries and similar places.
Employed to work in one shop or several in the same mall to catch shoplifters and prevent theft or other disturbances, retail guards have the right to detain a person, use force and in some rare cases remove someone or deny them entry. They are not authorised to maintain public order or remove someone based on disruptive behaviour. When they work at multiple shops they can be seen walking between them, but they can only operate within their designated guarding area, not outside the shops. If the guards need to chase someone who has committed a crime in their guarding area, however, they can go outside that area to catch them.
Nicknamed ‘detectives’ in Finland, plain-clothes guards are hired by shops to catch shoplifters in the act and have the same rights as uniformed retail guards. All guards have to identify themselves when approaching a suspect, but this is especially important for plain clothes guards.
These guards (legally Security Officers) are hired by a bar or a club to maintain order and safety on the premises and in its immediate vicinity. They usually do not wear a full uniform but it is required that clear ‘Security Officer’ signage is displayed somewhere on their clothing. They have the right to deny access and remove people from the premises. Since the venue can choose its clientele, a bouncer has the right to deny access based on their criteria, which can include age or dress code, but must be consistent. The criteria cannot be discriminatory (based on ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation etc). Unlike other guards, the bouncer is allowed to ask for ID to confirm the customer’s age.