Policing will always be carried out by the public sector in many capacities, but utilizing private security firms and community patrols can fill in gaps the public sector has. Having the private sector take over some of the policing responsibilities of the public law enforcement can improve an area’s safety. One, response time can be improved, because it is more localized. Two, because the private security firm or community patrol is more familiar with the area they could be the eyes and ears of the community and have a better understanding of the surrounding environment.
A phrase known as ‘order maintenance’ or ‘controlling the environment’ means to secure abandoned homes and property, reduce disorderly behavior such as public drinking, homelessness and graffiti. These issues have a direct impact on whether a community will slip into a state of crime and fear or maintain a safe, orderly and clean environment for the residents.
A perfect example case of this was Bushwick Brooklyn. This community was, at one point, a high crime neighborhood of New York City dealing with environmental issues, abandoned buildings and lots, rat and insect infestations and graffiti. If these issues progressed the neighborhood would have continued to spiral downwards and its residents would not feel safe.
However, through the efforts of community activists and private security hired by community and block associations working in conjunction with the new community-policing program initiated by the NYPD, the neighborhood was able to achieve a complete 180-degree turn. Since then, Bushwick has been restored into a vibrant, clean neighborhood attracting both professionals and young families due to the relatively cheaper housing prices.
Another example of using private security to improve safety is Carnegie Hill, situated on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They worked in conjunction with the 19th precinct to create the Carnegie Hill Neighbor’s Security Program. This program includes a security patrol traversing the neighborhood on a regular basis. They pay particular attention to the school dismissal hours to discourage students from hanging out in packs and causing trouble and make sure the streets is safe for them on their way home.
The public police force has made major leaps lately in improving local policing by creating the program under the NYPD known as the Neighborhood Coordination Program. This involves permanently stationing officers at hot spots within communities. Unfortunately, police departments are being overburdened by routine calls that can certainly be handled by private security patrols. There are too many quality-of-life calls being made to 911 which require a uniformed police officer to respond, but could be easily handled by a private community patrol. This would free up resources for the police department to handle high-risk crimes, including potential terrorism threats. The goal here is to have the private sector assisting with local police work by reducing the need for police to respond to low-level 911 calls. This will allow police departments to handle more dangerous crimes and reduce some of their budgetary strains, which many are currently operating under.
One place the stats show this would be helpful is with burglar alarm calls. Police stats reflect that over 90% of all responses to burglar calls are false alarms. Some communities have begun experimenting with the idea of the police only responding once the owner or a security guard can verify that there has been an actual crime. Further stats reflect if the local police departments are no longer preoccupied with responding to quality of life calls or false alarms, then they will have more time to investigate more serious offenses.
The private sector can assist both law enforcement with potential counter-terrorist activities by being the eyes and ears of the community, and coordinating with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the fight against global terrorism. Outsourcing to the private sector to protect against potential terrorist threats against nuclear power plants and other energy/utility plants, data processing centers, etc. is vital to our modern infrastructure.
Much of the nation’s infrastructure is currently under private sector control, thus an alliance between the DHS and private business could help facilitate better communication channels between public-private partnerships. Many IT firms already share critical information with the government when necessary to protect us from terrorist threats and foreign attacks. When Google was hacked, they worked with the FBI and the DHS. The government also benefits when it outsources security to private firms through contracts and bids due to the competitive nature of private companies bidding for jobs. This can also improve efficiency and profit motivate for the private industry to maintain contracts.
In fact, some security experts have stated outsourcing some agencies within the DHS to the private sector would be more efficient, most notably the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). We already see this type of cooperation from FEMA. FEMA can use the private sector within certain hurricane prone communities to enhance preparedness for disasters and to aid with recovery efforts since local private businesses are more tuned in to their neighbors’ needs.
DHS is an enormous government agency that cannot effectively operate without the expertise and resources of private industry through research, problem solving and sharing intelligence data while avoiding the bureaucratic constraints imposed upon it by the government. The public-private collaboration is necessary for communities to reduce the fear residents have by improving the local environmental factors that prevent crime. It will also free up the police department to concentrate on more serious issues and assist the DHS by providing intelligence on major terrorist targets and improving channels of communications which will improve the US’ strength and resilience. Integrated Security Services has the background, experience and knowledge to provide private security ranging from apartment complex security to private community patrol.