When many people think of security, the first images that come to mind are that of officers in uniform, security guards stationed in front of doors, and security systems set up with cameras and alarms. What many people may not realize is that in most cases, this security is successfully provided by private companies, and their presence is growing.
In a time when our safety is continually vulnerable and shifting, the good side of the situation is that our options are expanding along with it. While we are taught to assume law enforcement is generally the best option, or the only option, the rise of the private security industry, and the increasing opportunities for security investment are quickly moving into public awareness.
The Current State of the Private Security Industry
The private security workforce now outnumbers that of law enforcement, according to data provided by the Guardian. In many countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, and China, more private guards are employed for protection than there are police officers. As reported in 2016, the United States had around 1.1 million private security workers, compared to only 800,000 police officers. With the security industry’s continuing growth, the difference between the two only gets wider.
Private security officers protect many businesses, organizations, and individuals around the world, providing physical protection for property, as well as intellectual property and sensitive information. Their services can include anything from security guards at malls to systems monitoring online activity. Private security is built to protect more specific entities than regular law enforcement, whose area of focus is much wider. Government security is limited by certain rules and regulations, as well as funding, unlike private security companies.
The private security industry is well-managed, and because of its private status, it can also offer employees work benefits that a public service like the police force cannot. This is one of the reasons why there has been a trend recently of workers leaving public services for the private security industry. The training at these companies has been reported as strong and extensive, but without the same laws governing them as government security, there isn’t the same detailed management and assurance. Hopefully, in the near future, there will become an established standard and organization for oversight of the industry.
The Security Industry Continues to Grow
With intense incidents and allegations about prejudices displayed by law enforcement officers, people are turning to private security as an appropriate alternative. Law enforcement is a tool for reacting to an event or issue, and private security contractors are known to have faster response times than an emergency response team. With the increasingly tense world we live in, instead of simply responding to crises, people are trying to establish preventative measures to avoid trouble altogether. Private security companies intend to take advantage of that and fill in the gaps.
With more workers than there are police officers, private security officers’ presence in everyday society is becoming normalized. Some property owners feel that they have a lot to protect, and with more funds than the common person, they use private companies for security and safeguarding. Along with that, institutions, such as elderly communities and organizations where families frequently visit, have reason to try to create a place where their clients can feel safe. Private security has become the main resource for providing security for executives of Fortune 100 companies, and government buildings and municipalities are utilizing private security at a huge rate.
Businesses are taking notes on this rising industry. They see security investment as a safe economic move, and based on the data and trends, they’re right. Statista reports that the industry is, as of 2018, valued at around $217 billion, but is expected to increase to by $68.7 billion by 2022, as predicted by Technavio. A report by IBISWorld shows that in 2019, just in the United States, the revenue earned by the security industry was around $39 billion. The perceived future value of going into the security industry is spreading, so much so that even colleges are creating educational programs around a career in private security.
The Future of Private Security
In a world of rapidly advancing technology, with more and more business taking place online, the private security companies are forced to contend with this new environment, catering their services to protect their client’s property online. At the same time, the government is working to understand the risks and factors of cybersecurity. There are not yet set boundaries and rules regarding the online space and government involvement.
The Security Industry Association has released its forecast for the security industry trends of 2020, and they lean heavily towards cybersecurity and all the new technology this year brought. In their list of megatrends, there is: artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and cloud computing. There’s still a focus on the industry as a whole, as “cybersecurity impact on physical security” is at the top of the list. Despite its quick growth rate, the private security industry is still finding its place. With cybersecurity companies setting high prices, space is opening up for physical security companies to move forward and expand on their product offering.
The widespread use and dependence on private security is expected to keep expanding in the coming years along with the money put into security investment. The current concern is whether the security industry will be able to successfully continue protecting clients from the risks of constantly advancing technology. As the industry’s presence increases, the regulations on private security companies with most likely increase, which will create an interesting dynamic between private security and law enforcement. In the best case, the two groups will adapt and begin working together with the common goal of providing increased peace of mind to their clients.
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