Private Police: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?

Psst! Private police may be already there.

One of more than 30,000 gated communities that exist in America where private, not city or county police, guard and even patrol.

imagesIf you are wealthy you most likely already do not rely on public police for all your police services.

By 1997, an estimated 20,000 gated communities had been built across the country. Approximately 40% of new homes in California are behind walls. In 1997, estimates of the number of people in gated communities ranged from 4 million in 30,000 communities up to around 8 million, with a ½ million in California alone.

Hot Springs Village (Arkansas) is the largest gated community in the United States with more than 26,000 heavily-wooded acres. HSV is governed by the HSV Property Owners’ Association, a private, tax-exempt home owners association. — Wikipedia

For the wealthy, their neighborhood may already be gated with a private guard in attendance around the clock to screen visitors and control access. You may also have your entire neighborhood under constant video surveillance. At your place of work, you most likely will have uniformed private security at your entrances and parking facilities. You most likely will also have employees who do a number of security and quasi-police services for your company; services above and beyond what public police can or will provide.

I write about this today because I am very concerned about the future of our public police in light of the negative publicity police have received since the early days of Ferguson. If things do not dramatically change in the very near future, police as we know them may cease to exist.

Over the years and since 9/11, private security expenditures have already greatly overshadowed what citizens pay in their municipal taxes. Slowly, but surely, private security is protecting the homes and business of those of means.

In response, citizens who live in poor neighborhoods, lacking the resources or political power to get police to listen to them and be responsive, and change, they cry, in desperation, for community control of police.

To try and get a handle on this, I have listed three of the largest and most powerful security firms in the world. Take a look at the services they provide. And then start thinking about the possibility that a city, or other political jurisdiction, could enlist them to provide the services that particular jurisdiction desires. There would be no conflict as to which laws they may be directed to enforce and those which the community wishes to overlook. Think about it. It may soon come to pass.

1. G4S

1. G4S

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G4S describes itself as “the world’s leading global security and outsourcing group,” specializing “in outsourcing of business processes in sectors where security and safety risks are considered a strategic threat.” The British multinational security giant was set up in 2004 when London-based company Securicor amalgamated with Danish business Group 4 Falck. Currently, G4S employs more than 620,000 people, which makes it the third biggest employer in the private sector globally. In 2012 G4S turned over well over $12 billion. The company offers a range of services, including the supply of security personnel, monitoring equipment, response units and secure prisoner transportation. G4S also works with governments overseas to deliver security.


2. Securitas AB

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Established in Helsingborg, Sweden in 1934, Securitas AB is a worldwide security company with head offices in Stockholm. In 2012 the company had around 300,000 workers spread out over 53 countries and an annual revenue of over $10 billion. Securitas AB’s services include guards and patrols, investigations, home alarm systems, loss prevention, security consulting and guard dog supply. Its three chief departments are Security Services Europe, Security Services Ibero-America and Security Services North America. To facilitate its cash in transit service, Securitas AB operates specialist vehicles with metal safes as well as a fleet of bulletproof jeeps. It also specializes in securing sporting, business and recreational events.

3. ADT

3. ADT

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ADT Corporation was founded in 1874 and today is one of America’s leading alarm and security monitoring companies. Based in Boca Ranton, Florida, the company operates in 35 countries around the world, supplying alarms, monitoring equipment and peace of mind to homes and small businesses. In South Africa, ADT provides armed response teams and around-the-clock surveillance. Originally known as American District Telegraph, ADT started out as a telegraph delivery business. Then from 1910, under new leadership from AT&T, it started to switch focus to other fields such as fire and intruder alarms. In 2011 ADT boasted an estimated 6.4 million clients and yearly turnover of $3.1 billion. And in 2012 it split from Swiss parent company Tyco International and commenced trading on the New York Stock Exchange as an independent company.

[More security companies and their rankings can be found HERE.]

Recently, Carimah Townes wrote about private security in the Washington, DC area and the death of a young man, Alonzo Smith, by security police in “Think Progress.”

“Special police officer activity is even harder to track. As is the case with the two involved in [Alonzo] Smith’s homicide, official investigations are conducted behind closed doors. And because they technically work for private companies, special officers and their employers aren’t legally obligated to respond to public records requests.

“Beyond DC, a handful of cities and states contract with security companies to employ special police officers who face far less scrutiny than traditional law enforcement, even though they operate almost identically. These companies establish their own standards and procedures, disciplinary measures, and managerial discretion (my emphasis)

“They are then hired by local businesses, government agencies, schools, and developers who might want extra security in their buildings— many of which are occupied by poor residents of color.

“Today, D.C. has 120 private companies that employ 16,580 law enforcement agents: 7,720 special officers along with 8,860 guards, stationed at apartment buildings, colleges, commercial buildings, and hospitals, compared to approximately 3,700 Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers in the city. Some are stationed in D.C. government buildings, including the Wilson Building, where the mayor and city council member’s offices are located. And 4,523 of those special officers are armed (my highlighting).

“Even though they are hired by private companies, special officers are commissioned by the city government to work alongside but independently of the MPD.

“The primary difference between the MPD’s officers and special officers is that the latter group’s authority is limited to the private properties they’re hired to protect, whereas the MPD has jurisdiction everywhere. In many ways, though, the line between MPD officers and special officers is a blurry one…” (my emphasis).

Read her entire article HERE.