Residents, businesses in S. Tacoma meet to discuss property crime, homeless camps

TACOMA, Wash. — Frustrations are soaring in the south end of Tacoma over property crime and issues with nearby homeless camps, prompting business owners to convene a meeting Thursday night to discuss possible solutions.

Members of the South Tacoma Neighborhood Business Association were joined by police and Tacoma City Councilmember Joe Bushnell to talk about what it will take to restore law and order to the area. Many of the participants said they are fed up with what they see as constant street crime.

“We have a criminal element here that is causing havoc in our community and it needs to be addressed,” said Venus Dergan, a south Tacoma resident and neighborhood activist.

While the unchecked crime was the predominant topic, the conversation often turned to the homeless camps that business owners said provide a refuge for criminals.

Paul Etsekson, who owns commercial property in south Tacoma, said truly destitute people living on the streets are being used as human shields and “criminals are hiding amongst them.”

Residents met Thursday night to discuss mounting concerns about rising crime in south Tacoma.

The business district has applied for a security enhancement grant through the city to beef up their private security with a second patrol car.

“They’ve already done a trial period with Raven Security,” said Tim Marlowe with the Cross District Association, the organization helping to coordinate grant applications. “They’ve seen some changes for having the presence here and honestly they just want more presence.”

However, Dergan said the grant money won’t fix the most pressing issues.

“The grant money is an option but it’s after the fact,” Dergan said. “We want something pro-active (and) preventative.”

Police said they understand the frustrations and the chief is working on a larger crime strategy.

They also said they would follow up on some specific concerns raised during the meeting, but business owners feel like they are running out of time.

“Our tenants, their businesses, their livelihoods, are being destroyed,” Etsekson said.

Other neighborhood districts in Tacoma are also getting ready to submit applications for security enhancement grants.

The city has $250,000 available for things like security cameras, lighting or private patrols. The grants will be issued to to reimburse business groups for the safety improvements they make.


20 Active Shooter and Active Killer Prevention Strategies

These are the steps your organization should take to increase the chances that a planned attack will be averted.


Although there are no prevention strategies for active killer-types of attacks that have been proven to work 100 percent of the time, there are prevention approaches that are worth the effort they require. A number of these have been used to successfully avert mass casualty attacks, and some of these have been effective in preventing multiple attacks.

In every planned attack I have worked to date, the media reporting about the actual facts of the cases is likely to be inaccurate in many regards. Only the full case file will give us a reliable picture of what happened and what if any real opportunities there might have been to prevent these attacks. However, these types of case reviews often reveal at least some potential for interrupting large-scale attacks (see Active Killer Trends sidebar below).

While emergency preparedness efforts are especially important for situations where an active shooter or active killer incident cannot be prevented, it is my experience that it is unwise to spend more time, energy and budget on responding to these catastrophes than on trying to prevent them in the first place. This article will focus on potential strategies that can increase the chances that a planned attack will be prevented. A comprehensive approach using multiple strategies is more reliable than a focus on only one or two concepts.

1. Multi-disciplinary threat evaluation and management
Properly developed and implemented multi-disciplinary threat evaluation and management teams have demonstrated considerable success in preventing many planned school shootings, bombings and suicides since the technique was first used to stop a planned school shooting in the Bibb County, Ga., public school system more than 25 years ago. This is one of the most effective and reliable prevention strategies when the dangerous individual is part of the campus community. The law enforcement and mental health components of this approach are critical to a more accurate and actionable evaluation.

2. Visual weapons screening
This approach has also been used to successfully prevent a number of planned campus shootings. Visual weapons screening involves training personnel how to look for and recognize a variety of specific physical behaviors often exhibited by persons who are carrying a concealed weapon.

3. Pattern matching and recognition
This research-based approach is known by several other names and was used to help avert a planned shooting of a school bus more than two decades ago. Pattern matching and recognition involves training people to pay attention to patterns of human behavior that are incongruent for the time, setting and context of the situation. The often subtle behaviors can help staff detect potentially dangerous people regardless of the type of weapon they possess.

4. Anonymous reporting systems
Twenty-four-hour, 365-day per year anonymous tip/text reporting lines have been in use since at least 1990 and have helped campus officials avert numerous planned campus shootings, suicides and other deadly situations.

5. Banning potential violators from campus
Banning potentially dangerous persons from campus property combined with the arrest and search of violators who return can help campus officials interdict a potentially dangerous person before they can open fire. As one example, a planned school shooting was averted in Hinesville, Ga., when a school resource officer arrested three individuals who returned to the campus after he banned them earlier in the afternoon. When three guns were found in their possession, the suspects admitted they had come to the school to carry out a planned shooting.

6. Effective use of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) concepts
The proper utilization of CPTED can help improve the connectivity between people, the ability for building occupants to see a potential threat in time to react to it, can improve access control and can help to make more overt physical security measures less intimidating. The greater the need for physical security measures, the greater the impact CPTED can have.

7. Good physical perimeter security
Effective physical security can create significant delays and in some instances even barriers to an attacker. A stalker who had vowed to kill a Georgia primary school teacher was arrested by police after he repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to defeat the school’s perimeter security. School district police officers recovered a loaded .32 caliber semi-automatic pistol from the man’s waistband. In addition to preventing some attacks, good physical perimeter security can make it more difficult for a potential attacker to surveil a campus to plan an attack.

8. Robust visitor screening and management
Today’s electronic visitor management systems are highly robust and can help prevent people who have been barred from the property from entering the main areas of a campus or building. For instance, using an ID badge or card similar to the types of identification that you can find here can ensure that only authorized individuals can gain access to the facilities and buildings on site. In schools, for example, ID cards have come a long way in recent years and should be administered to staff, students, and visitors. Like good perimeter security, properly utilized visitor management systems can make it more difficult for a potential attacker to conduct a detailed pre-attack survey.

9. Security and ballistic windows in key areas
A planned shooting was averted at a Minnesota elementary school through a combination of a prompt lockdown and the installation of security screen doors. When the police arrived, they observed the suspect beating on the glass of the front door trying to gain entry with a handgun. The security window film prevented him from entering the school. Installing something like Unbreakable Glass is a superb security tactic for any property and should be considered by anybody looking to protect their building from invasion.

10. Properly screened, trained and equipped security and law enforcement officers
While active shooter events have occurred on campuses with armed security and police officers on duty, there have also been a number of incidents that have been averted by armed officers in the campus setting. In addition, a number of active shooter events have been interrupted by armed officers.

11. Monitoring of social media
Though there are many challenges to this approach, there are sometimes opportunities to detect indications of impending danger via troubling social media posts. One school system likely averted a shooting when officers from the district’s school police department special operations unit confronted a former student who was posting frightening step-by-step plans for a hypothetical attack on his former high school. Considerable efforts are being made to develop effective and practical software solutions in this area.

12. Intelligence databases
A number of planned attacks by gang members have been detected and averted through multi-agency gang information databases. Increasingly, law enforcement agencies are using multi-agency databases to help monitor other types of potentially dangerous individuals and groups.

13. Internal and interagency information sharing
While software programs can be an invaluable tool to help multiple agencies detect and monitor potentially dangerous individuals in a region, old-fashioned collaboration and cooperation are still an important means for campus organizations and area law enforcement officials to identify and address potentially dangerous individuals.

14. Traffic enforcement
Officers Woodrow Telfair and Stephanie Prater prevented a planned gang shooting when they attempted to make a traffic stop on a city street adjacent to the Central High School Campus in Macon, Ga. When the suspects sped away, students in the area yelled to the officers that the car contained gang members who had just brandished a handgun and had stated that they were about to open fire. After a short chase, the three suspects were taken into custody by Telfair, Prater and backup officers. The department also recovered numerous firearms from convicted felons during traffic stops and license and insurance checkpoints near schools.

15. Proper background checks of employees and volunteers
Research by U.S. Postal Inspectors found that a number of individuals who carried out planned attacks in postal facilities had prior records and/or significant workplace behavioral issues prior to being hired that could have been caught by this Iowa background check or others, should they have been carried out. Improvements in screening applicants became part of USPS’ successful approach to preventing future acts of workplace violence.

16. Gun detection canines
In the past, gun detection canines have been successfully used to deter students and non-students from having firearms in their cars, in student lockers and hidden on campus grounds. In recent years, new training approaches have been developed that make it possible for officers to use canines to detect people in public settings who are carrying a firearm or an explosive device. Particularly helpful for large events such as concerts, athletic events and graduation ceremonies, these impressive canines can detect the scent trail left by a pedestrian as they walk.

17. Security cameras with facial recognition software
Security camera technology has been improving dramatically in recent years. Newer systems enable the photographs of persons of interest to be uploaded into the system, which can often detect the person in a crowd through facial recognition software. Though these systems have limitations, they can provide an additional layer of detection if photographs of a person who may pose a threat are available. For example, if a terminated employee who has been banned from the property attempts to enter the campus to attack former supervisors and/or colleagues, this type of system might be able to detect his or her presence on or near the campus.

18. License plate recognition cameras
Many campus organizations use tag cameras to record the license plates of all vehicles entering their roadways and parking areas. While these can be useful tools to identify an aggressor after the fact, systems that will alert security personnel when the license plate of a known potential violator enters the campus can provide early warning for certain types of attacks. For example, if a campus employee has received death threats from her ex-husband and he attempts to enter the campus to act on the threat, security personnel can receive an alert as soon as his vehicle enters the campus.

19. Entry point metal detection
While reliable entry point metal detection requires a number of supportive measures such as checkpoint security, screening of all hand carry items such as purses and good perimeter access control, it does provide levels of security that other countermeasures cannot create. Careful planning and penetration testing can help ensure a viable weapons screening approach.

20. Robust intrusion detection systems
The Ketchikan, Alaska, Police Department was able to prevent an active shooter event when they arrested a student who had broken into the school and climbed into the upper roof area. After responding officers checked the building due to multiple alarm activations, the department called in off-duty officers to conduct a more thorough search of the school and found the student who had a high-powered rifle equipped with a scope. The student told officers that he had planned to open fire on students when they gathered in front of the school in the morning.


While there are no foolproof methods to guarantee that active shooter and active killer events won’t take place in a particular setting, there are strategies that provide possibilities and probabilities that attacks can be averted. While there are other viable approaches that can be helpful in reducing the risks of active shooter attacks, these strategies are among the most practical for the majority of campus settings.

These strategies should be viewed as options to be considered rather than pass/fail items on a checklist that every campus organization should have in place. In addition, it is important to remember that each campus organization will be safer if it adopts a customized blend of strategies designed to fit local risks, realities and resources. Many planned campus attacks have been successfully thwarted using techniques described in this article.

Source: Campus Magazine Safety

Foot patrol works. More of it will reduce violence.

Foot patrols are not a silver bullet, but when implemented in careful, thoughtful ways in violent crime hot spots, they can reduce and prevent violence

his essay is reprinted with permission from the Violence Reduction Project

By Jerry Ratcliffe and Dr. Evan Sorg

In Philadelphia, 2020 was the deadliest year in 30 years. As of December 2020, the Philadelphia Police Department has recorded 466 homicides, a 39% year-to-date increase relative to 2019.

Foot patrol has been a cornerstone of policing since modern police agencies were created.
Foot patrol has been a cornerstone of policing since modern police agencies were created. (Photo/Police1)

In 2007, Jeremy Travis, then President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, testified to the United States Senate’s Judiciary Committee. He described a 23% two-year increase (from 375 in 2004 to 406 killed in 2006) as “stunning.”

Like many other cities across the country, Philadelphia is facing a raging pandemic and an increase in crime-related killings. The number of lives lost to violence in 2020 will be an increase of over 100 for a city that “only” had 241 in 2014. We will likely double that total in 2020.


2020 is unprecedented. Criminologists will likely spend the coming years trying to explain the causes of the devastating uptick in murders being experienced around much of the country. Although such hypothesizing and theory-testing will no doubt be reported in academic journals in the years to come, cities around the country are grappling with rising violence now. An immediate response is required.

Notwithstanding challenges on multiple fronts that are unique to 2020, recent history in Philadelphia and academic research conducted over the past several decades, provides an evidence-based blueprint for one thing urban police departments can do to tackle violence immediately: foot patrol.

Any plan must deal with the practicalities of the day. It is clear that the outgoing presidential administration will leave in its wake (at least) two interrelated crises that will complicate the ability of local jurisdictions to successfully implement crime reduction activity:

  1. A failure to develop a coherent nation plan and promote best practices to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. A failure to provide sustained financial relief to local jurisdictions that have been economically devastated due to the virus.

Therefore, ANY plan to implement crime prevention programs must be offered with an eye to both budgetary constraint and sensitive to the fact that many communities – particularly already disadvantaged communities – are facing significant economic hardship that has swollen due to COVID-19.

These communities have also borne the brunt of the recent homicide increases in their neighborhoods. Immediate crime prevention plans must also be implemented in the context of a raging pandemic. As if 2020 hadn’t doled out enough, the awful death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and the civil unrest that followed has exacerbated police-community relations. This is why it is particularly instructive to examine Philadelphia’s experience with crime and policing under the leadership of Mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey from 2008-2016, and specifically their advocacy for police foot patrols in crime hot spots.


As we enter 2021, many local leaders are grappling with environments where homicides are up, economic circumstances are bleak, and confidence in police is at historic lows. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter began his first term in 2008 facing similar circumstances (absent a pandemic). The 2008 financial crisis hit the nation during Nutter’s first year in office, forcing him to abandon ambitious plans and drastically cut budgets. Homicides in Philadelphia would come down slightly during the year before Nutter’s tenure, but homicides and other violent crimes were still near record highs for the decade when he assumed office.

Nutter made crime reduction a central theme in his mayoral campaign, and he even ambitiously promised to reduce homicides in Philadelphia by 30-50% during his first 3-5 years in office. Politicians tend to have wildly optimistic rhetoric when campaigning, but he was ultimately successful. Nutter tasked his new Police Commissioner, insightful and smart veteran Charles Ramsey, to lead this charge.

Ramsey was a police leader in Chicago during the rollout of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy in the 1990s when he worked alongside academics like Wesley Skogan to evaluate the new community policing philosophy. Ramsey gained an understanding of the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of policing interventions with scientific methods. He also had an affinity for foot patrolling, and so upon taking over leadership of the Philadelphia Police Department he expanded the use of foot patrols in the city.

Although a post-hoc analysis of the effectiveness of these early foot patrols was conducted by one of us (Ratcliffe) and Travis Taniguchi, the Philadelphia Police Department recognized that there were limits to what such an analysis could tell them. It also became clear to then-Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel that a more robust evaluation was necessary to truly understand whether the foot patrols were effective. As he explains in this video, Bethel had not originally thought that foot patrol would work, but after being provided with the results of the initial analysis, Bethel phoned Ratcliffe and invited him to design a more robust experimental evaluation of foot patrols; the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment. It would become the first of two experiments testing the effectiveness of foot patrol at hot spots.

Our research in Philadelphia coupled with research conducted over the preceding decades can be summed up as follows:

  1. Foot patrols are not a silver bullet, but when implemented in careful, thoughtful ways in violent crime hot spots, they can reduce and prevent violence.
  2. The public supports them. Foot patrols leave the public more satisfied with their police departments, and less fearful of crime victimization.

Foot patrols were found to reduce violent crime at foot beats by 23% in 2009 relative to standard police patrols during the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment. They were not, however, successful in reducing crime during the Philadelphia Policing Tactics Experiment. The reasons for the difference are an important lesson in implementation. What follows is a summary of the findings reported in our book and several academic journal articles that we have published on the topic with our colleagues. Readers interested in the methodological aspects of the summary that follows, or interested in further reading, can consult this website where more technical academic journal articles are linked.


A natural starting point for any foot patrol program is to identify where crime is most problematic and use this knowledge to develop foot beat locations. Contrary to common wisdom, crime is not randomly distributed across the urban landscape. Rather, it is highly concentrated at geographic areas smaller than the administrative boundaries like sectors that sometimes dictate where police will patrol.

Hot spots are most often operationalized as individual streets, street corners, a single building, or small clusters of these locations. Traditional beat areas used for car patrols, neighborhoods, or communities, are usually too large for foot patrol. For the smaller areas necessary for this work, well-trained crime analysts can aggregate crime incidents that have occurred over a preceding year or so to these geographic units and figure out this information.

This was performed prior to both the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment and the Philadelphia Policing Tactics Experiment. You do not need a lot of time to amass violence in Philadelphia. Violent crimes that occurred in the three months prior to foot patrols being deployed were aggregated to street corners and were mapped in a way that depicted where high crime corners were surrounded by other high crime corners. Police leaders then used their experience to draw foot beats that not only encompassed these hot spots but also incorporated key features of the area, such as bodegas or bars.


We learned that the size of a foot beat is important. On the one hand, beats that are too large will dilute any deterrent effect of the foot patrols, while beats that are too small can result in boredom and a feeling of monotony among officers. They may begin to stray from their beats, further diluting any deterrent effect. During the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment, officers patrolled beats that contained about 1.3 miles of streets and 15 intersections. As noted, 23% less crime occurred in those beats that were patrolled.

During the subsequent Philadelphia Policing Tactics Experiment, foot patrol areas were much larger, and this was a mistake. They contained three miles of streets and 24 street intersections. Crime was not reduced by any meaningful amount, and we suspect that the size of the beats was a contributing factor. We would recommend erring on the side of smaller beats that more closely align with those delineated during the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment. More focused is better.

A second important consideration when planning for foot patrols is to think about what type of officer is best suited for the job. In the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment, 240 police officers were set to graduate from the academy, and these rookies spent their first three months on the job walking. In the Philadelphia Policing Tactics Experiment the next summer, veteran officers were utilized. This resulted in significant differences in recorded activity.

When the rookie officers worked in 2009, pedestrian stops increased by 64%, vehicle stops increased by 7% (yes, officers were stopping vehicles while they were on foot), arrests increased by 13% and 23% less violence was recorded. During the following summer’s experiment, the foot beats that the veteran officers worked saw pedestrian stops remain stable and vehicle stops and arrests decline. No significant crime reductions resulted. We believe that the differences in activity contributed to these disparate crime reduction findings. It seems that offenders are aware when the local officer is active rather than a scarecrow.


We are not necessarily advocating for beefed-up enforcement efforts through arrests or pedestrian stops. Officers involved in these experiments reported that they saw value in both law enforcement and efforts to engage the community. They oftentimes took steps to strike a balance between the two. Recent history tells us that aggressive enforcement can backfire and be counterproductive, so great care must be taken to choose the right type of officer, and for management to provide direction to the officers as to what is expected of them.

Based on our research, we recommend striking a careful balance between the two. Sometimes, the consistent presence of an officer can be a strong deterrent, so increases in aggressive enforcement are unnecessary. This is especially true if community relations are to be prioritized alongside crime prevention.

But the officer cannot be a statue either. Crime opportunities blossom when offenders think they have anonymity. So, the officer must be active enough to know who the local people are, who should (and should not) be in the area, and be able to engage – positively – with everyone on their beat.

A final consideration is how often and how long officers should spend time on foot beats, and again we can offer guidance based on the disparate findings between the two experiments in Philadelphia. During the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment, two pairs of officers spent their entire eight-hour shifts walking the beat for three months, alternating between 10 am-6 pm and 6 pm-2 am shifts. Veteran officers worked only one eight-hour shift a day for three months and were sometimes not paired up with another officer. What resulted was a dosage of about half that of the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment. This, too, could be a contributor to the null findings resulting from the Philadelphia Policing Tactics Experiment.


Foot patrol has been a cornerstone of policing since modern police agencies were created, but it was not until relatively recently that we learned that how foot patrol is carried out really matters. That it encourages and demands officers get out into the fresh air during an air-born pandemic is a benefit unique to the current times. There are, though, several factors that must be contemplated for an intervention to be successful. Nevertheless, with thoughtful consideration, we believe that foot patrol can play a role in slowing the rises in homicide that are underway across the country. Done properly, foot patrol combines cost-effective positive community engagement with a reduction in the anonymity that is so often related to neighborhood mayhem. Even with the necessary planning prior to deployment that we discussed here, foot patrols are an inexpensive and effective way to deploy resources. 

Click here to read more essays from the Violence Reduction Project

About the authors

Jerry Ratcliffe is a former British police officer, professor of Criminal Justice at Temple University and host of the Reducing Crime podcast. After an ice-climbing accident ended a decade-long career with London’s Metropolitan Police, he earned a first-class honors degree and Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham. Ratcliffe has been a research adviser to the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Commissioner, an instructor for the ATF intelligence academy, and he is a member of the FBI Law Enforcement Education and Training Council.

Dr. Evan Sorg is an assistant professor in the Department of Law and Justice Studies at Rowan University. He received his Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from Temple University in 2015. Prior to doing his graduate work he was a police officer with the New York City Police Department. His research involves police innovations, place-based criminology and the evaluation of policing interventions. 

Businesses hire private patrol team to curb crime in Calif. city

A pilot program of “private beat cops” aims to supplement the presence of sworn officers. Business owners say it’s making a difference

By Steven Mayer
The Bakersfield Californian

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — It happened at a consignment shop in downtown Bakersfield called The She Shed by The Peachy Pig.

The shop keeps some products outside its glass front door and the young employee in the store that day watched as an apparently homeless man laid down on a small padded sofa and decided to take a little nap in the shade.

Had owner Kalae Paxon been there, the former Kern County Sheriff’s Office detentions employee would likely have had the man on his feet — and quickly on his way.

But the clerk on duty was understandably reluctant to confront the man.

Instead, they called O & A Security Services, a private security company whose officers are “walking the beat” in a limited area of downtown seven days a week as a means of supplementing the waning presence of Bakersfield Police Department officers.

“A young lady (in uniform) showed up, and told him he had to leave,” Paxon said.

The man left with no further incident.

The contract — negotiated by the Downtown Business Association, 25 downtown business owners and O & A — has been in place for less than three weeks, but some downtown business owners say they are already seeing a positive difference.

“People were leaving their garbage, using us as their bathroom,” said Trisha Reed-Fike, who operates Guthrie’s Alley Cat.

“I know they are making a difference,” she said of the private beat cops. “The neighborhood looks more peaceful.

[RELATED: Foot patrol works. More of it will reduce violence.]

“Yes, I know it’s a work in progress,” she added, “and that it’s not going to be fixed overnight.”

Tina Brown, the owner of Tina Marie’s restaurant at 19th and Eye streets, said getting 25 business owners to come together as a group to spend money on additional security is worth celebrating.

“Downtown needs this,” she said. “If we want the heart of our city to be successful, we need to work together.”

The effort is a pilot project. It’s designed to keep what works and chuck what doesn’t, to work the bugs out and zero in on effective strategies.

“This is just a beginning,” Brown said. “But you might be seeing the start of something here.”

On a recent weekday, Sasha Owens, supervising officer and partner in O & A Security, walks east on 20th Street, then turns south on Chester Avenue. She says hello to people she passes on the sidewalk. And when she sees someone digging through trash, sleeping on a bench or a sidewalk, she starts a conversation.

She is armed with a Taser, but doesn’t carry a firearm. Her husband and business partner, JW Owens, does carry when he works the streets after dark on Friday and Saturday nights.

As she reaches the corner where Wall Street Alley meets Eye Street, she spots a man going through the huge dumpster across the street. Her pace quickens.

“You can’t be in the trash can,” she says in an assertive, no-nonsense tone. “We’ve had this conversation before.”

She pauses to see where it goes. She’s spoken with this man on another occasion.

“You already know where I’m at,” she says, establishing a kind of command presence. “Put the box back in the trash can. I can’t allow you to be in the dumpster.”

The man doesn’t say a word. He just gathers up his bags, climbs on his bicycle and rides away down the alley.

Then a voice comes from across the alley.

“Thank you!”

The voice belongs to Blackboard Barbershop owner Shaun Perdue, who is taking a smoke break. He had watched the whole thing.

“We run them off, too,” he said of the vagrants. “But I think it’s more effective when they do it.”

Maybe it’s the uniform and badge. Maybe it’s the training.

Perdue said he’s happy with what he’s seeing so far, but he has yet to be completely convinced of the value of the pilot program, and remains one of several business owners in the area who has not signed onto the contract to help spread the cost.

Mario Alvarez, who has been doing business downtown since the early 1970s, owns and operates Pacific Jewelry Co. on Chester Avenue. He also has not signed on.

“The best time we ever had with security downtown was when we had a beat cop,” he said of the days of old when the BPD had walking patrols downtown.

“There’s a difference between a beat cop and a security guard,” he said. “It’s not just psychological. It’s real.”

Alvarez said he works on a lean and mean overhead, and needs to be careful about spending.

“They could be doing a good job,” he allows of the security guards. “But a police officer would be better.”

Asked if he might be benefiting from the pilot project paid for by his fellow business owners, Alvarez doesn’t hesitate.

“I’d be lying to you if I said no.

“Bottom line, it costs money,” he said. “We already have the police department.”

(c)2022 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.)McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Security – The industry of inequality: why the world is obsessed with private security

Guards from the private security company Prosegur after the Paraguay-based firm was targeted in a multimillion-dollar raid in April.

New Guardian research shows private security workers outnumber public police officers for the majority of the world – in a business that now dwarfs what is spent trying to end global poverty

At least half the world’s population lives in countries where there are more private security workers than public police officers, according to a new Guardian analysis.

More than 40 countries – including the US, China, Canada, Australia and the UK – have more workers hired to protect specific people, places and things than police officers with a mandate to protect the public at large, according to the data. In Britain, 232,000 private guards were employed in 2015, compared with 151,000 police.

The global market for private security services, which include private guarding, surveillance and armed transport, is now worth an estimated $180bn (£140bn), and is projected to grow to $240bn by 2020. This far outweighs the total international aid budget to end global poverty ($140bn a year) – and the GDPs of more than 100 countries, including Hungary and Morocco.

Around the world, private security guards patrol shopping malls, elite gated communities and some public streets. They often wear uniforms that resemble police clothing and in some countries, including Spain and Italy, private guards carry handguns as well.

From El Salvador to Vietnam, private guards restrict access to walled elite residential enclaves that are cut off from the cities around them. In Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon, guards and metal detectors block entrances to luxury hotels that tower over the extreme poverty surrounding them.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg runs through Berlin with his personal bodyguards.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg runs through Berlin with his personal bodyguards. Photograph: Paul Zinken/EPA

Guard dogs bark from behind the high walls and razor wire that have become ubiquitous in wealthy suburbs in South Africa – where in 2015, almost 500,000 security guards numbered about twice the country’s combined total of police and army personnel.

In all, estimates suggest there are more than 20 million private security workers worldwide – more than the total number of people living in Chile or the Netherlands. Such “everyday” private security has become “so widespread that you almost don’t see it; you take it for granted”, said Rita Abrahamsen, a professor at Ottawa University. “You stop noticing it – there are guards everywhere.”

She described the expansion of private guards, security fences and gates as “very physical displays of inequality” – but added that this industry also provides jobs for huge numbers of people. In some countries, it is one of the only sectors of the economy that is growing

At Denver University, Prof Deborah Avant said the private security industry had surged with contracts during the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when “an army of private workers flooded in to do all sorts of things”.

Afterwards, she said, companies “began to look elsewhere … at private security domestically but also for people living abroad, and for the private sector; for companies”.

Growing economic inequality was also part of the story, she said. “You have a ton more [money] than everyone around you, so you want to protect it. Getting [security] from the private sector is an obvious way to do it.”

Targeting the 1%

In the UK, the British Security Industry Association suggests the private security industry was worth more than £6bn in 2015. Customers include local communities: residents in one Essex town have reportedly hired private security to patrol public streets at night after a local police station closed.

Other companies target more elite clientele: the My Local Bobby subscription-based service caters to the wealthy in London’s most upmarket areas. According to one of the founders, a former police officer: “It’s like people buy private health insurance … the concept of people paying for something above what the state provides – this is no different.”

A private security guard outside the 964-acre gated community of St George’s Hill in Surrey.

This month, Jeremy Corbyn pledged that if Labour won the forthcoming election, it would add 10,000 more police officers to local forces. The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said this was necessary as “very few of us live in gated communities with their own private security”, and that it is “ordinary people who suffer most from crime”.

Some private security companies explicitly target the richest 1% with services such as crisis response for the ultra-wealthy, “executive personal protection” packages, and security for mega-yachts.

“In properly staffed households throughout the world, the bodyguard is the new nanny,” said the US magazine Town & Country in 2016, suggesting that “fear of terrorism, a volatile political climate and a pervasive sense that the wealth creation of a few has come at the expense of the many have made paranoia the norm”.

In London, the Westminster Security company offers “complete security and lifestyle management for high net-worth individuals, families and businesses,” advertising that their employees have police and military backgrounds.

The US company Pinkerton says it has 170 years’ experience of “highly-skilled agents” protecting “Fortune 100 CEOs and their workforces, famous entertainers, athletes, high-net worth individuals, royal families and diplomats”.

Intensifying inequality

The universal declaration of human rights states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”, and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property”. Governments are required to work progressively towards realising these rights.

But when private security enables the rich and even the middle class to bypass the state, this can intensify a country’s inequalities. Regarding the expansion of private security in Latin America, the UN Development Programme has warned: “This phenomenon further increases inequality, as social groups have different capacities to deal with crime.”

In 2014, the economists Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev published research that found the US was employing “as many private security guards as high school teachers”.

Students pass through metal detectors on their way into school in Albany, New York.
Pupils pass through metal detectors on their way into school in Albany, New York. Photograph: Mike Groll/AP

According to Department of Labor statistics, there are more than 1.1 million private security guards in the US – compared with about 660,000 police and sheriff’s officers.

In the UK, the Confederation of European Security Services (CoESS) said there were 232,000 private security guards in 2015. This also rivals the number of secondary school teachers (roughly 250,000), and far exceeds Britain’s levels of police: in March 2016, there were a total of 151,000 police officers operating within the UK (excluding police community support officers, special constables and support staff etc).

The growth of the private security industry reflects the breakdown of community bonds that comes with rising inequality

Bowles and Jayadev also found that more unequal cities and states in the US had higher levels of “guard labour” – a broad term that includes private security as well as police, bailiffs, prison officers, transport security and other related occupations. The pattern also held globally, with more unequal countries having more of their workers paid to protect people and things.

The growth of the private security industry can reflect the “breakdown of trust and community bonds” that comes with rising inequality, said Jayadev – adding that he was particularly struck by how, despite the importance of investing in education for society as a whole, guarding appeared to be more of a growth industry in the US.

Speaking to the Guardian from Bangalore, where he teaches at Azim Premji University, Jayadev observed that India has witnessed a broad “secession of the rich from the rest of the economy”.

Many people there, he said, already “rely on private services in every facet of their lives” to provide “all of the things the state might [otherwise] … including security”.

Estimates suggest the private security industry employs as many as seven million people in India, far more than the police, with about 1.7 million officers in 2013.

Symbolising wealth

The world’s largest private security company, G4S, boasts more than half a million employees around the world. Its most recent annual report, published in March, reported revenues of £6.8bn in 2016, and profits of £454m. Between 2015-16, its revenues in North America grew by 12% – and in both Latin America and Africa by about 7%.

Guards often have positions in front of buildings where they may see unusual activity – they can collect information too

The global market for private security – including guards but also alarm monitoring, armored transport and other services for commercial, government and residential buyers – is expected to grow to $240bn by 2020, according to data from the market-research firm the Freedonia Group, which companies such as G4S rely on for their own reports.

But true numbers could be higher still; there are few up-to-date and comparable statistics at the international level, and little open and independent monitoring and record-keeping. Industry data also leave out informal and under-the-table security work.

According to Freedonia figures, it’s a worldwide business that’s growing at nearly 6% a year – faster than the global economy as a whole – and it appears to be expanding fastest in developing countries and in Asia, with China and India major markets.

In January 2017, Freedonia noted that there is a “widespread perception that crime is rising”, which is helping to drive interest in security services “even as reported crime rates fall in a large number of countries”.

A nano drone at last month’s Border Security Expo in San Antonio, Texas.
A nano-drone at last month’s Border Security Expo in San Antonio, Texas. Photograph: John Moore/Getty

It added: “In a number of developing countries, bodyguards and other residential security services are seen as symbols of wealth, providing both protection and social status … Demand for guards is especially strong in developing countries, where hiring guards is more affordable than investing in technology-related services due to low labour costs.”

In most African countries, “there has been very little attempt to regulate the private security sector,” said Abrahamsen. “I think because it provided employment, the state and governments were quite happy to let it be.”

A few governments, including those in Uganda and Sierra Leone, have also facilitated the export of private security labour overseas, she said – actively supporting the recruitment of their citizens for guard jobs abroad.

But it’s also not only the elite that buy security. For example, in Kenya, Abrahamsen said: “You see it growing in low and middle-class areas as well. People will say that as soon as they can, they will invest in private security.”

Outpacing regulation

Government outsourcing is not the only thing driving private security. These days, in fact, states are not even the primary customers. According to Catherine Piana, director general of CoESS, roughly 70% of the industry’s clients in Europe are other private businesses – not public authorities.

“There is now a very wide range of services, depending of course on who you are,” said Piana, adding that, in the context of threats from terrorism, guards also “often have positions in front of buildings where they can see unusual activities and report them, so there’s a possibility for them to collect information too.”

International data on the industry is patchy – but in 2011, the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey documented an estimated 19.5 million security guards across 70 countries.

Its report said: “Like other commercial services, only those who are able and willing to pay will benefit from it. This dynamic runs the risk of exacerbating disparities between the wealthy – protected by increasingly sophisticated systems – and the poorest, who may need to resort to informal and sometimes illegal means to secure their safety.”

The Guardian has updated this 2011 dataset to 81 countries, drawing in more recent estimates, where possible, including figures published by the CoESS, the Organisation of American States, the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, and other groups, as well as updated UN population estimates.

For the 81 states for which estimates were available, private security workers appear to outnumber police forces in 44 countries – with a combined population of roughly 4 billion people – or more than half of the world’s total of 7.5 billion.

Inequality index

In 2011, the Small Arms Survey warned that the private security industry’s rapid growth around the world “has outpaced regulation and oversight mechanisms”.

Currently there is an international code of conduct for private security providers – but it is voluntary, and critics say this industry needs more than self-regulation.

At Denver University, Avant co-directs the Private Security Monitor, which has been collecting data on incidents since the 1990s where private guards in Africa, Latin America and south-east Asia have been involved in protests, riots, strikes or conflicts, or connected to deaths or injuries in the course of “everyday” work.

And in Brussels last week, MEPs on foreign affairs and defence committees called for new EU-wide rules for private security companies and a ban on these firms carrying out military combat tasks. The European parliament is expected to vote on the proposals at the June plenary session in Strasbourg.

This article was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Read more of the Guardian’s new Inequality Project here. To get in touch, email [email protected].

(Source: The Guardian)