The Security Research Initiative (SRI) has just published two reports addressing key considerations for the security industry. Together, the comprehensive documents seek to understand and highlight the ways in which private security can help protect the public – in both private and public space – and the ways in which this role may be enhanced. They call upon various stakeholders to consider how, as an underused and largely capable resource, private security can best be used, not least in times of austerity.
The 42-page report entitled Towards ‘A Strategy for Change’ for the Security Sector aims to provide a foundation for thinking about and ultimately developing a ‘Strategy for Change’ for the security business sector. It seeks to provide a rationale for why private security is important and suggests ideas (for wider debate) about how its potential might be realised.
The document is based on three overarching aims:
*Government must be encouraged to develop a strategy for harnessing the enormous contribution of the private security sector when it comes to preventing crime
*The private security sector must commit to developing an ability to talk with a more united and co-ordinated voice
*The private security sector must commit to highlighting the enormous benefits it generates – including those for the public good – and also commit to ways of enhancing them. Much of what it currently does is unheralded and underacknowledged
The second SRI report, entitled ‘Police Views on Private Security’, runs to 66 pages and discusses findings from responses provided by 1,361 serving police officers to an online survey focused on attitudes towards the private security sector (ie private security suppliers and corporate security departments). This is designed to inform the strategy for better engaging private security (as detailed above).
Overall, it’s evident that the police officers surveyed view the private security sector as useful in some of the aspects of the work that the police service conducts, and even necessary in some cases. That said, there’s a lack of appetite in the private security sector for taking a greater role in supporting or otherwise working in partnership with the police, and especially so where this would amount to private security undertaking ‘policing’ tasks in public space.
The perceived reputation of the private security sector is a negative one.
Key findings of this report include the following:
*close to six-in-ten respondents believe private security plays a minor role in protecting members of the public
*corporate security departments are seen as being important in helping the police in their work by 62% of respondents, but security officers much less so (with a result of 36%)
*well over eight-in-ten respondents stated that business needs to be primarily responsible for protecting itself against fraud and cyber crime. Indeed, only 50% of the sample respondents believe that the police service has a responsibility to investigate all frauds and acts of cyber crime
*more than half of the respondents disagreed with the suggestion that collaborative working between the police and private security is essential given the current limitations of police funding
*respondents were critical of businesses, with approaching nine-in-ten indicating that companies need to be more committed to sharing information with the police
*a much smaller majority – but over 50% – admitted that the police service also needs to improve here in terms of being more committed to sharing information with businesses
*police officers responding were not typically supportive of private security seconding officers, nor supportive of conferring additional powers on private security officers. Even the idea of businesses injecting money into a given force to enable a response to certain crime types wasn’t overwhelmingly viewed as a positive step forward
Professor Martin Gill CSyP FSyI, director of Perpetuity Research and the leader of this new research, noted: “The SRI members wanted to conduct a study to look at where the security sector should go and what the barriers to progress are and also suggest ways in which it can develop. Hopefully, the findings will be seen as a starting point. What’s clear is that private security is an essential part of public protection, but it’s not strategically harnessed and its potential is both underestimated and underplayed. It’s not in anyone’s interest for that situation to continue.”
*The Security Research Initiative is sponsored by the security sector (buyers and suppliers) and involves an annual study. The reports are made available free of charge in order to provide a more informed information base about the workings of the security business sector. For further information access https://perpetuityresearch.com/security-research-initiative/