Security partnerships critical in crime detection and prevention

Christopher Bryan

Monday, May 27, 2019

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Policing services offered by private security companies have been embraced tremendously by public and private entities the world over. In order to understand the phenomenon of this industry, and to define its importance and impact, it is important for researchers to undertake international comparison of both the private security and the extent to which its industry shapes the complement of policing task.

Niall McCarthy, contributing to The Guardian UK, stated that whether private security are patrolling shopping malls, conducting screening at airports or protecting VIPs, private security guards have been an increasingly common sight across the world.

According to The Guardian, the private security industry has experienced high growth in the recent years, and today there are an estimated 20 million private security workers worldwide, while the industry is worth approximately US$180 billion. This figure is expected to grow to a further US$240 billion by 2020, greater than the gross domestic product (GDP) of 100 countries such as Portugal, Romania and Hungry.

The Guardian also noted that there are an estimated seven million private security workers in India, compared to just 1.4 million police officers. Similarly, in China, about five million people are employed in the private security industry, compared to the police of about 2.7 million. The United States Department of Labor Statistics claimed that there are over 1.1 million private security guards in the USA, compared to 666,000 police officers — with more and more individuals joining the billion-dollar clubs. The Guardian argued that the demand for services, such as alarm monitoring, and amoured transport, are skyrocketing, resulting in private security companies becoming a symbol of global wealth. Companies such as G4S, the world's largest private security firm, boast employment of 585,000 security individuals, with revenue of nearly US$10 billion.

The table included depicts 11 countries with comparison of private security guards and police officers.

A report from the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice pointed out that uniformed security guards are by far the most observable exponents of private security occupations. Their presence has intensified alongside the police. Private security guards, thus, have become an integral part of overall policing strategies, or as some may say “governance security”.

Private security industries are now offering a kaleidoscope of professional services and a greater variety of security products than ever before, including man guarding, alarm monitoring, security equipment and installation, transportation of cash, investigations of white-collar crimes, and provision of advice on risk management, The Guardian stated.

The Fredonia Group reported that the USA will remain the largest consumer of security services, accounting for 26 per cent of the overall global private contract security spend. Spending on such services is expected to rise by five per cent to US$68 billion annually in 2019. The report also highlighted the continued importance of having skilled and qualified personnel to conduct security system monitoring and incident responses. Despite the proliferation of security technology, highly trained security guards remain the best way to provide an adequate deterrent to potential unauthorised incursion and to coordinate effective responses to unexpected events, the report posited.

Amy Goldstein, of The Washington Post, argued that North Carolina is part of a pattern across the USA in which public safety is shifting into private security hands. Private security firms with outright police powers have been proliferating in some places and are trying to expand their terrain. They are lobbying the state legislature to broaden their jurisdiction. In areas such as wealthy gated communities in South Florida, private security companies without police authority carry weapons, sometimes dress like SWAT teams, and make citizens' arrests. These guards have outnumbered the police officers, pre-dating the heightened concerns about security brought on by the September 11, 2001 attacks.

What is new, however, she pointed out, is that the Durham Police Department is increasingly turning to private security companies for help; moreover, private sector security is expanding into spheres — such as complex criminal investigations and patrols of the downtown districts and residential neighbourhoods — that used to be the sole province of law enforcement. In one of the most ambitious collaborations, the Minneapolis Police Department took on a project called Safe Zone in the downtown area in which private security officers outnumbered police officers 13 to one. Companies in the area paid for wireless video camera systems which were shared with the police, and the police department created a shared radio frequency.

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, she further argued, had also tried to foster closer ties between security companies without police powers and the sheriff's department. The agency has been training and certifying private crime-prevention practitioners and planned to send security companies e-mail with unclassified homeland threats and crime alerts.

In promoting partnerships for crime prevention between the State and private security companies in South Africa, Sabelo Gumedze argued that private security is now considered to be part and parcel of the broader security sector in that country. Not only are private security companies providing security services to those who can afford to pay for such services, but they also play a part in crime prevention within various societies. They arguably complement the role of the police, whose role is to detect and combat crimes. There needs to be this inclusion, he concluded, between State and non-State actors; this should be the case despite the fact that the private security industry is largely profit-driven, and that in the pursuit of business it largely serves the interest of those who hire its companies.

As at December 31, 2017, there were 317 private security companies operating in Jamaica, including 33 new ones, and they employed 22,641 guards, an increase of 2,685 over the last year's total. Comparable at the same period, the strength of the Jamaica Constabulary Force was 11,389 individuals, which was 19.2 per cent below the established size versus 20.3 per cent in 2016, according to information from the Jamaican newspapers.

Jamaica's private security industry is properly regulated and governed by the Private Security Regulations Authority. Considering the magnitude of the private security guard force operating in the private as well as the public spaces, one has to think of the invaluable information which they can or may be galvanising which may able to assist in further intelligence-gathering. Of note, is that some of those same trained police officers are out there operating as private security guards.

In light of the various roles that State security agencies and non-State actors play in crime prevention, the need for the establishment and strengthening of strong collaborations of partnerships among those security providers cannot be overemphasised. Crime prevention and partnerships are very important, due to the fact that crime negatively affects any country's development. Therefore, crime detection and prevention cannot be left to the police; it is a societal challenge requiring a multi-pronged approach. The private security industry cannot easily be wished away as it as heavily relied upon as a contributing force to the countries economics.

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