The debate between public and private security is a fascinating one. Private crime control continues to grow as an option, not only for personal safety but for government outsourcing as well. Private security includes patrols, escorts, bodyguards, alarms and even locks. Private security has several advantages over public security.


Private security is almost universally cheaper than public security, because providers must make a competitive bid for the contract whereas public security has a monopoly for its services. In addition, police unions can contribute to election campaigns or get out the vote to pressure elected officials to raise wages. In contrast, private security must maximize cost efficiencies to make a profit.


Private security also includes many automated devices that can protect against criminals. Many homeowners have installed automatic alarm systems that can detect when a burglar has breached a window or door. Of course, a public security officer could not be expected to patrol all houses all of the time, so installing a private security network is a good alternative for concerned homeowners.


Private security forces have slightly different incentives than public security forces. These personnel can be fired easily by their bosses and are also interested in renewing the contract with the city or state, so they do not run up many sick days or paid overtime. In contrast, public security forces are mainly concerned with maintaining order and do not want to create bad publicity for the politicians who oversee their budget.

Rapid Escalation or Draw-Down

Private security can expand or withdraw rapidly from a hostile situation. During the war in Iraq, the U.S. government used private security contractors to supplement ground forces. These forces provided essential security while having the flexibility to grow or shrink with the demands on the ground. By contrast, U.S. military personnel maintain rigid schedules and require a vast and expensive support structure.