Security Guards in Taipei: What's the Use?

Teenagers take over the playground inside the courtyard of my apartment complex

When looking for an apartment in or around Taipei, I always check to see how close it is to a main street. My first apartment was over a big street in Yunghe, and it was never quiet - never. At three in the morning, big trucks rumbled by my window. The honking was simply 24/7. The one other issue that I care passionately about is whether or not the place has security. If I see a security guard lurking around the door when I'm apartment hunting, I don't even bother to go inside and have a look. Along with vicinity to busy streets, I learned that security guards make life miserable for building residents during my Yunghe experience. They snoop into your life, impose inane rules on residents, nag about silly stuff and do nothing to deal with outsiders that might cause the residents real grief. It's not like these security guards are trained in security either. They're not ex-cops or martial arts experts. They're usually tea-sipping old men, the kind that would be the first to hightail it out of there if any real trouble arose. Then there's this: you've got to pay them. Take my new apartment in Monga (艋舺) - yes, I have one with security guards again (was outvoted by the wife and in-laws). I pay NT$1700 (US$60) a month for nothing. They don't even deal with our garbage or come when the security alarm goes off in my apartment.

My biggest issue with the security guards right now is they're afraid of teenagers. Teenagers simply love the grounds around my complex, especially the playground, when it starts to get dark. We do have beautiful new ballpark lights. Unfortunately, the security is too cheap to turn them on. So, the place is dark, yet comfortable, with benches, trees, grass, etc. With the teenagers out in the playground in the evening, many parents are afraid to take their kids to play. This is quite clear to me. We have two playgrounds. The one with the slide, which has more natural light, is less popular with the teenagers. They gravitate to the darker one with the monkey bars. You can see families playing in one, but afraid to enter the other. The teenagers that like my complex also swear, smoke, drink and act, in general, like assholes. That people are intimidated by them obviously gives them a rush. They can't even bother to keep their trash off the ground. They just chuck butts and cans into the playground.

Last night, four male teenagers were getting particularly rambunctious. There was only one girl, so I guess they were all trying to outdo each other. When I asked them which one lived in the complex, they answered "No, we don't live here".

"Then what are you doing here?" I asked.


The security guy was up out of his booth to enjoy the scene, so I asked him why he didn't take care of the problem. "They don't even live in the complex," I told him.

"I can't do anything about them. I can just ask them to be quiet and not to litter, appeal to their sense of morality. Sometimes, I pick up their cans and butts and show them how to throw them away." This is something I am quite curious about. Actually, I'm curious about lots of stuff: Why can't he kick them out? Is he just afraid of them or does Taiwan
not have laws for trespassing? Or, are the courtyard areas inside apartment complexes considered public space? Does Taiwan have laws about loitering? I can't find the word in my dictionary, so I am guessing not.

Last night was the second time I had to kick teenagers off the playground because the security guards in my building would not. Can you imagine being
that scared of a bunch of scrawny 14 and 15-year-olds? My grandpa used to say: "When I can't drive anymore, just shoot me."

I'll just say this: "When a bunch of 14-year-olds have me trembling in the knees, just shoot me." I'm going to the police station tonight to see if the cops will talk to the security guards in my building about getting the lights turned on and about doing their job.


David said...

The word for loitering in Mandarin is 逗留 (dòuliú). I hope it helps.

Anonymous said...

For those trivial matter to deal with teenagers' problem, it won't bother you to go to police station. You know each community has its own management committee, which is an organization to handle all of affairs for the community. You have paid fee NT$ 1700 every month, of course you have the right to complain about what happened as described in the blog to them. Come on! go enjoy your right!

Patrick Cowsill said...

I need to go to the police station to find out the law. Is the courtyard of an apartment complex private or public property? If it is the former, the teenagers are trespassing.

Another problem is the security guards are afraid of the teenagers. So now we residents must behave like vigilantes.

Patrick Cowsill said...

And I checked with lots of people: trespassing is absolutely a concept here in Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

Great, great post Patrick. Thank you!
Actually, change is possible. Several months ago, before I moved out of the place that was being paid for by my cram school boss, the building changed the security guard set up. Not longer tea-sipping old men. They were young men, dressed in security guard uniforms, unlike before.
And you know what? for years and years, I am guessing (cause it was tea-sipping old men before) the situation had not changed.
I guess someone must have changed. Or maybe the landlady wanted to make more money. Or...something. But it was more professional. And this is in Miaoli City, a very small town. Not only that, it was in a short high-rise building that housed a gangster KTV below.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I wish we didn't have them. I don't want to pay this money to be annoyed.

My wife was coming home the other day. She didn't have the outer-door key. She asked the security to buzz her in. He said: "How do I know you're not a thief? I don't even know you live here." Finally, a neighbor let her in.

When I went to complain, he said: "She always forgets her keys!"

MJ Klein said...

seems like more and more, we need Clint Eastwood in our lives....

Patrick Cowsill said...


“You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?”

Anonymous said...

The one with the purple lips looks really unhappy. What did you say to them?

They're like mosquitos on a camping trip. The boys here will go and others will come in their place.

Thoth Harris said...

That last anonymous comment about Miaoli City was from me. Blogger is acting funny. Sorry!
Yeah, doormen are a joke. I think the people who think that having a doorman brings prestige, or that they actually make things safer are being bloody fools. It makes me angry that you were outvoted, and that your opinion isn't counted for anything. Well, I hope you and your family all stay safe!!! And that eventually, everyone listens to reason, and maybe eventually to you! Maybe none of us will every have to shell money out to these damned fool doormen and waste of sight and speech and so forth, ever again. Just let them do some other just, or retire!
Hey, things are getting scary here, particularly in the poor, more disenfranchised parts of the country (although that doesn't excuse these teens in the least):

Watch out when you talk to or look at these punks. I should be saying that to myself, as I have quite a temper, particularly with regards to ridiculous drivers! Speaking of which, I better get a motorcycle driver's licence!

Patrick Cowsill said...

I was "outvoted" so to speak. I agreed to it because my wife wanted to live by her parents (but was thinking: drat, security guards).

The other day, a security guard came to my apartment at eight in the morning to complain about the baby stroller I keep outside the door. He said: "The neighbors are complaining." That's nonsense. I know my neighbors. Who was complaining was the real estate agent who's trying to sell the apartment across the hall. All the apartments are sold on the 10th floor; that's why nobody cares about the money oven blocking the fire exit up there.

The security guard works for me. Why doesn't he find a way to make the real estate agent put a cork in it? He could have a bit more respect for his employer.

Anonymous said...

Lucky, you do not have a security guard who has just stepped out from jail as a parolee.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Lucky, you do not have a security guard who has just stepped out from jail as a parolee."

If he's not afraid of teenagers, then maybe I do. That's the problem here: they're afraid of teenagers. And look at the picture - what a joke.

Anonymous said...

The proverb is well said that “gentlemen do not step close to the danger.” If I were you I would stay away from them though it is nice to see a young man with your kind of spirit and courage. I afraid the youth; all of us should afraid them. A 14 years old boy was gunned down the other day on the street. Police suspect that the one fired was even younger than the victim. It is a different world. Once they decided to go after you, they would say “OK, I die with you.” Think his life just worth pennies and you have a family to take care for. It is just not worth risking your life. Get out from the place as soon as possible when you get your degree. It is not the place for your kind of gentleman.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Don't worry. I'm not going to beat the shit out of any of these kids. Actually, a lot of them are okay. A lot of the teenagers in the park near my home (where they do have a right to be)know me by name.

Patrick Cowsill said...

The reason these teenagers prefer our complex to the park is that they turn on the lights in the park. Actually, I'll try to deal with this tonight. It seems like there is a simple solution. Once again, leave it to the useless security of my building, not to be able to find it.

Anonymous said...


This is a never ending dilemna and you know it. The only way to end this bullshit is to go completely vigilante on these people. Dress in black, go out at night, and slit the throat of the security guard and then choose one or two teenagers to torture in the park before slitting their throats too. Believe me, no one will ever fuck with you again after that. Especially when you look at them and smile maniacally as you walk in an out of your apartment. If some piece of shit security guard did not let my wife into her own apartment complex, I'd slit his fucking throat. I'm sure some of the teenagers are cool. But if any of them did anything to harm or disrespect my daughter or my family, I'd slit the little fucker's throat-- guy or girl. And you know who this is, bro. So I don't have to sign my fucking name.

Anonymous said...

I'm all about seizing the initiative and taking back communities for their residents. And I hate (and I do mean HATE) the police.

You don't pay your guards for friendliness. You pay them to guard you and your stuff.

It doesn't matter how much your apartment and its complex cost. Communities have an osmotic effect. Noise leaks in from outside. Pollution leaks in from outside. Crime leaks in from outside. Teenagers leak in from outside. If you don't want crappy neighbors...move out of the crappy neighborhood. We have teenagers up here in the mountains. They spend their evenings doing homework, practicing the piano and watching TV like everyone else.

There's this thing called the broken window effect. If you keep patroling, they will stay away. If you stop, they will return. If you decide to talk to your complex's committee, you should not ask them to get the guards to 'do something'. Instead, you should get them to outline a procedure for the guards to follow...1) prevent access (don't let them in the gate!); 2) Call the police, etc. A guard doesn't need to be confrontational to be valuable...you don't want them feeling scared to come to work - they just have to be willing to call the cops.

Then you should get the committee to talk to your Li Zhang and arrange to ahve the police come and do a sign-box at the building entrance or something.

Which brings us to a good question: How are the teenagers getting into your complex? Is there a back door? Are the walking in past the guards? Whatever it is, it sounds like a hole that should be plugged.

Patrick Cowsill said...

The teenagers were walking by the guards to come into our complex. The playground they enjoy is about 20 meters from the guard office. I think they enjoyed the rush of defying him.

There are nine buildings in all, with lots of open space. A guard told me that there was simply too much space to patrol. I told him that if he thought his job was overwhelming, if he wasn't up to it, he should quit instead of complaining to a resident who is, in a way, his employer. He agreed I had a point.

The issue may have been resolved, a case of the squeaky wheel getting the oil. I had a talk with their boss on Thursday night. That was going to be my first step. Then I was going to go from there to the police. According to the boss, the new rule is that the teenagers will get two warnings to go, and the cops will be called. I suggested a "No trespassing" sign and now one is up. I also suggested turning on the light. He said lights attract them like flies. I don't believe this, but let it go. I also noticed a camera right over the teenagers favorite bench on the monkey bars. I wonder if it's new. I didn't notice it before. But it seems like everything is peaceful now. I haven't seen the teenagers back since. He also said the guard on duty had seen me take a picture on my cell phone (see blog pic) and that this was "cool".

It has been suggested to me that this socio-economic. I live in a low rent neighborhood (I always thought of it as a historical neighborhood); hence, the teenagers are not required by their parents to stay home and study, practice the piano, etc. This is an interesting point. But I used to live in a high-rent neighborhood, Mucha. In fact, Taiwan's president was my neighbor, and yet all of the parks around my house came with teenagers, who gravitated toward the playgrounds. To me it's a Taiwan phenom.

Another person gave me a suggestion. Get their names and student numbers off their uniforms and complain to their schools. These kids weren't wearing uniforms, but if they were, I think it might be useful.

Things are getting turned down a notch, returning to peaceful (no throat slitting or anything like that). I'm not going crazy anymore. I was in Youth Park last night and bunch of noisy teenagers walked by. A couple said my name, so I went over to chat. I even remembered a few of theirs: Garbage, Michael Jordan and Stupidass (rough translation). I told them they ought to go look for girls. One said it was good idea. Another, pointing at a buddy with long, shaggy hair said "that's mine".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for filling me in on the details (ie. the camera pointed at the park bench where the teenagers congregate). This is vital information. Quite observant of you. Have you considered joining the 'Agency'? Back on point, make sure you place a piece of 2" duct tape over the camera lens before torturing or slitting any teenagers. Delaying the discovery of the carnage ( by passerby's, guard rounds, etc.) will increase the odds of a swift and unincumbered getaway ten-fold. Chapter VII, paragraph 13 of the Operatives Guide to Mercinary Disposal of Non-affiliates.

Let me know if you require any assistance in this matter. This one's a freebee.

Patrick Cowsill said...

You've got it all worked out, duct tape and so on. Nah, the kids are gone. They've put on black t-shirts and have taken to wandering Youth Park. I saw them there Friday night.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I had to laugh when I saw this guy taking out a "yob" in his front yard in England: