Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Private Crime Prevention Practitioners"

The US is increasingly using private security firms to supplant - and often supplement - local police forces. These private contractors are armed and not always trained in police procedures, yet they can make arrests. And, there have been abuses...

With the sleeve patch on his black shirt, the 9mm gun on his hip and the blue light on his patrol car, he looked like an ordinary police officer as he stopped the car on a Friday night last month. Watt works, though, for a business called Capitol Special Police. It is dozens of private security companies given police powers by the state of North Carolina - and part of a pattern across the United States in which public safety is shifting into private hands.

Private firms with outright police powers have been proliferating in some places - and trying to expand their terrain. The "company police agencies," as businesses such as Capitol Special Police are called here, are lobbying the state legislature to broaden their jurisdiction, currently limited to the private property of those who hire them, to adjacent streets. Elsewhere - including wealthy gated communities in South Florida and the Tri-Rail commuter trains between Miami and West Palm Beach - private security patrols without police authority carry weapons, sometimes dress like SWAT teams and make citizen's arrests.

Private security guards have outnumbered police officers since the 1980s, predating the heightened concern about security brought on by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. What is new is that police forces, including the Durham Police Department here in North Carolina's Research Triangle, are increasingly turning to private companies for help. Moreover, private-sector security is expanding into spheres - complex criminal investigations and patrols of downtown districts and residential neighborhoods - that used to be the province of law enforcement agencies alone.
....Read The Private Arm of the Law (

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