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The role of private security in creating safe cities

In 1989 New York City was considered a seriously dangerous place. The city was synonymous with gang violence, urban decay, and a society besieged with ineradicable street crime. To address the seemingly insurmountable task of restoring order to the streets, a privately financed venture was initiated in Midtown Manhattan to support the New York Police Department. 

Commercial property owners within the district agreed to self-impose a surtax to pay for security services. Trained security personnel were posted on the ground at commercial properties and proved to be instrumental in crime reduction and keeping order in the Midtown area. 

According to the FBI, in 1990 alone there were 527,257 recorded crimes in NYC, a number that was significantly reduced after the partnership with private security commenced. In the 16 years following there was:

  • 75% reduction in crime
  • 73% reduction in murder
  • 76% reduction in robbery
  • 57% reduction in grand larceny

What was once considered one of the most dangerous cities in the western world, was ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit Safe Cities Index in 2015 as the 10th safest city in the world. 

The role of private security in creating safe cities is not, as many envision, about introducing private armies. Instead of supplementing police forces, private security instead adds resources to a public service, strengthening the ability and capacity for both public and private stakeholders to respond in crisis situations, aid in crime prevention, and provide evidentiary support within the justice system.  

From cutting edge technology, to communication innovation and trained personnel, private services play a pivotal role in reshaping and reinforcing public security. In an age where security risks are always evolving and there is a constant threat of terrorism, extra vigilance and dynamic response systems are vital, and that is where private security comes in.

Using technology to create dynamic networks

The rise in private security has introduced enormous technological capabilities throughout cities. With CCTV now common place, remote monitoring through private surveillance means there are more trained eyes monitoring and assessing public spaces. Private CCTV and remote monitoring provides a range of benefits including:   

  • Deterrence of criminal behaviour
  • Fast reporting and response of suspicious behaviours
  • Supporting police in civilian crime as evidence
  • Asset and people protection
  • Increase detection and response in medical events

Communication Capabilities

Not only does CCTV and remote monitoring increase the ability to detect security events, advanced communication technology gives private security the ability to activate immediate response for the surrounding areas. For example, if there is a terrorist event detected in one area, advanced security communication can initiate building lock downs and emergency security responses in surrounding areas. These communication and response capabilities are also vital for keeping the community safe during severe weather events or environmental emergencies.

Building Safe Spaces for the Whole Community

While terrorism and overt criminal activity is undeniably a real and present threat, it is only one aspect of creating a safe city. In assessing and ranking cities according the safe city index the Economist Intelligence Unit explains “perception of safety among city residents is one of the indicators used to build the index and this falls under the category of personal safety”. 

With such a complex, dynamic and culturally diverse society, the visible presence and daily interaction with private security plays an essential role in creating the perception of safe spaces, and instils an understanding of an active security presence throughout the city, a huge deterrence for unacceptable behaviour.

Security in Education Facilities

Security in education campuses play a huge role in providing a safe space for culturally diverse communities. With the health of the Australian education sector largely depending on revenue from international students, ensuring our secondary educational campuses are safe and appealing is essential to the vitality and growth of our communities and economy. 

Special care must be taken by companies to balance security with accessibility – children may not be willing or physically or legally capable of submitting to enhanced security measures, so often inventive approaches must be taken to ensure they are adequately protected. These could involve specialised access control procedures timed to arrivals, foot and bicycle patrols around the perimeter of the school, and secure student transport solutions. In all cases, attention must be paid to how the security measures could potentially negatively impact the students’ education, either by intimidating them or simply slowing their progress around the school. 

Security in Health Care

Similarly, health care facilities are frequented to a huge cross section of the community and have an integral role in the health and wellbeing of our cities. Integrated private security solutions ensure both public and private healthcare facilities are safe and welcoming to the entire community, while keeping staff, patients, and visitors safe in high risk environments. 

The extreme diversity of hospital patients means that security companies need to have broad and detailed plans in place in order to achieve the result clients are looking for. Companies must also be aware that health care security comes with dual goals – protecting the hospital and patients from outside actors and protecting the hospital from its own patients. Different responses will suit different threats – for example, RFID tracking of tools and drugs can work to prevent theft by patients and staff but will be less useful for determined external threats. Concierge security can be useful for helping to create a non-threatening environment for patients, potentially deescalating situations before they ever truly become threats to staff or assets. 

Using Innovation and Training to Serve the People

As part of these integrated security solutions, compliant private security providers invest in the training and professional development of security staff. Moving beyond static guards, leading private security suppliers invest in ongoing training to equip multi-skilled personnel to fill roles including concierge and customer service. Not only does this increase the value of service for businesses and government organisation, it creates a more trusting and engaged security environment, and safer cities.