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Saturday, November 14, 2009

UK citizens turn to private security firms for protection

Ultimately it is the job of the state to ensure that we are protected from violence or theft, but the state can't be everywhere nor can it do everything. That is why many citizens in the United Kingdom are hiring private firms to patrol their neighbourhoods.

According to the BBC, members of the community pay between 2 pounds and 4 pounds to have security guards protecting their area. These guards have no official police power, though the local constable can assign powers to them. The whole concept is by their mere presence they would deter any thieves.

Of course some police officials don't like this for some bizarre reason. There is a complaint being made by the Vice Chairman of the Police Federation that these guards might create confusion. People will see uniforms and be unsure about who these people are answerable to.

I am going to take a leap of faith here and assume that their uniform is not the same as a police uniform. I am also going to assume that it is illegal for any of these guards to claim to be a police officer on duty (I expect some of them are off duty or retired policemen). So exactly how are people going to be confused? When I see a mall cop or a condo security guard I don't think that they are police officers. I sincerely doubt anyone would make that mistake for longer than two seconds.

The Vice Chairman also made this claim:

I understand the public's fear of crime but actually it's the police who patrol public space and we should be very wary about giving those powers to private security companies

If the police were patrolling to the satisfaction of the public no one in the public would pay money to have more patrols. So why shouldn't the public hire more protection?

This is how former Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair would respond:

I do not see community safety as a commodity to be bought and sold and therefore we shouldn't be having the private sector in policing.

Oh it isn't a commodity is it? Then I guess police work for free, out of a sense of civic duty presumably. Seriously this is a totally nonsensical argument. People have been paying for protection sense...well likely around the same time that people started paying for sex.

Also we can make a distinction here between private security and policing. No one is claiming that the justice system should be made private (at least no one here isn't). It is just that people have the freedom to hire extra protection. Much like a dance club hires bouncers or a celebrity hires bodyguards.

And finally:

Unless we get this right, we will end up with private security coming in and they will work for the rich and the poor will go without.

Or because the wealthier neighbourhoods are now better protected the police can commit more resources to those poorer areas. Or is it that you think that the rich would be better served by their private protectors than their public protectors.

Is that the real fear here? That the private sector could actually do a better job of neighbourhood patrolling than the public sector?

I leave you with that question... 

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 14, 2009 | Permalink


There are three times as many private security individuals than police officers. If the private sector stopped work tomorrow the public police would not be able to cope with increased duties relating to crime and disorder and protection of property. In recent years the standard of the private security sector has considerably improved .

Visable private police patrolling the streets, shopping malls, industrial estates reduces crime and the fear of crime.

Posted by: Ken Rogers MA (Criminology) FIISec.MIIRSM. | 2009-11-14 7:25:54 AM

People who enjoy government induced monopolies hate the thought of competition.

Ken Rogers is right. If security guards were outlawed so that the police can do their jobs, all that would happen is that more tax money would need to be budgeted for the police. Then we would get more of the same (waste), and less real protection. Why would someone who lives in a crime-infested ghetto be OKAY with the idea of paying more taxes so that police can patrol rich neighborhoods instead of privately hired security (which is paid for by the individuals that benefit)? They would be pissed off, and rightfully so. If people feel the police are not sufficient to protect their interests, maybe we should look at introducing more competition to the police from the private sector instead of reducing it. This would create an incentive to perform at a higher standard.
Of course the police would not favor the idea of private competition. They are the ones who are not providing the protection people require, but are still getting paid to do so. Just another example of the government money train.

Posted by: EndtheFed | 2009-11-14 7:50:08 AM

Lightning said:
"Really, Fed, Increase the number of authoritarian numb skulls to the point where you are hassled at every corner sometimes because of just how you look( ethnic and predjudices that will not go away)"

I don't think any enforcement is needed in most cases, but some people do. Maybe if I owned a multi-million dollar house and some neighbors and I wanted to protect our vaults filled with precious valuables, I might feel the same way they do.

Since not everyone is willing to pay for added private security in their neighborhood, I don't think that it would be a very substantial increase in a "police state" unless people were being forced to pay for this security.

You are right that it would be a reduction of freedoms to live in a neighborhood full of professional rats reporting every minor detail to the police, invading privacy, and potentially harrassing people, so maybe it would be a good idea to limit the use of private security to the property of their employers. This would mean that they can patrol all they like, but they are limited in their "jurisdiction" to keep them from reporting things that do not involve the property of the people who have decided to hire them. Since private industries are not looking to increase the well-being of the general public, they would more than likely only expend their resources on the ventures that cover the expenses they incur.

It is the idea of increasing the role of police in neighborhoods that I am against, since that would mean more taxes would have to be forcefully taken from the public. The degree of socialized protection we do have with the police presently is part of the reason why people in rich neighborhoods don't feel they have adequate protection, and people in poor neighborhoods are more likely to hate the police. Everybody has to pay taxes, but not everyone is getting the degree of protection they would like; some people in poor neighborhoods think they have too much police presence to the point where they are being harrassed, and people in rich neighborhoods think the cops are too busy serving everyone else to attend to their needs. I'm not saying we should have no police at all, but I think that allowing private security to supply the extra protection for people who are willing to pay for it is a better solution than increasing the presence of police in neighborhoods. Increasing the role of government in policing is inefficient when compared with a free market solution, and the added competition may prompt the current level of police to perform better and become a bit more efficient.

Posted by: EndtheFed | 2009-11-14 10:08:20 AM

Sure looks like a classic case of supply and demand. Time for the government to take economics 101.

Posted by: Doug Gilchrist | 2009-11-14 10:16:46 AM

Lightning, when we say "we need to..." it inevitably means the state. Unless you are saying that it is your opinion that we should.

The same is true when we say we should "inspire hope."

While I want to inspire people, where that fails I want to be free to hire who I want to hire for what I want to hire them for. For this there is no conundrum.

Posted by: TM | 2009-11-14 6:18:58 PM

Lightning, you miss the point. Thanks for being respectful about it though. Something not often seen on blogs. What I think I should do to influence people is one thing. That is something that I feel I must do and I undestand it takes years. Supporting your right to protect your freedoms and property rights is another issue. There is no conundrum.

I can talk about the best way to plant a garden, and keep it free of weeds and be right. But if it takes me two years to figure it all out and get it all right and motivate my kids and neighbors, I have no harvest. There are actions I can take today, and others I can engage in to invest in the future. But I cannot impose this on anyone.

Posted by: TM | 2009-11-14 8:00:02 PM

Red Robbo in a uniform.

Posted by: Paulie | 2009-11-15 5:34:10 PM

The rise in "private policing" in the UK is a direct result of a failed state. The UK is drowning in a sea of political correctness, multicultural madness and 12 years of insane, pseudo-Marxist social engineering. Violent thugs get away with a slap on the wrist and most police officers are sitting in the Nick (police station) filling out four hours worth of paperwork for one crime, even if it is only a shoplifitng offence. Meanwhile, violent gangs armed with machine guns fight it out in Britain's cities over control of the drugs trade and sex industry.

People simply do not feel safe anymore. Gangs of mouthy, aggessive 'youths' hang around The housing estates and make people's lives a pure misery. If the police are called they will take anything from three hours to TWO DAYS to respond. A case in point concerns Fiona Pilkington, a 38 year old single mother of two handicapped children from Loughborough, England, who took her own life and the life of her 18-year-old daughter, Francecca Hardwick after setting their car ablaze. The family suffered from over a decade of abusive behaviour from a local gang, which included rocks and eggs thrown at their house and being openly taunted in the street. Yet despite receiving 33 desperate 999 calls in ten years, police dismissed Miss Pilkington as 'over-reacting' and classed her as 'low priority'. On one occasion she was forced to withdraw from giving evidence against the gang after her disabled son was threatened at knifepoint in the street. The police, of course, did virtually nothing and simply let the gangs drive a women to committ a muder-suicide. After all, they said they needed "proof" that a crime had been committed.

Little wonder then, that the latest trend in "private policing" is emerging. The security officers who make up these agencies are mostly mature, level-headed individuals with training in correct use-of-force techniques and as streetwise as you can get. They are not handcuffed by political correctness, they do not spend four hours at a time filling out a crime report, and can often deal with mouthy youths on a more "direct" level than the police do in this politically correct age.

"Shut your ignorant mouth and move along sonny, or you'll end up with a sore face."

Frankly, it works.

The trend of private policing is not new here in North America. The USA and Canada are seeing an uprecedented rise in security agencies protecting private homes, gated communities and even poor city housing estates. As an ex-pat Brit and the owner of as security agency here in Canada, I can attest first hand to the value of such additional services. Although no security service should ever try to rival or replace professional law enforcement agencies or police services, we CAN work together in partnership to keep our streets safe and deter crime. The head-butting between security firms and police services in the UK is counter-productive to say the least. Private security or warden services like ATRAKS in Southampton and Sparta Security in Darlington have already proved their worth by reducing crime and detering the yobs simply by being a reliable presence on the streets when the police are absent. If the various private security services and the police find a way to work in co-operation with one another in forging solid partnerships in helping to keep the streets safe, a great deal can be achieved. We work with the police here in the same way and have forged a very satisfactory relationship with them.

Why not in the UK?

Posted by: Bill Gibbons | 2009-12-01 2:21:27 PM

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