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Private Policing - The Future of the UK Security Industry?

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

Policing in the UK is in dire straits. Britons are now more "unconfident than confident in police to deal with crime," according to a YouGov survey conducted last October. The proportion of the public who think the police are performing well has decreased dramatically.

UK private security officer standing outside headquarter
UK Private Police

The vast majority of those polled believe that crime is rising and police effectiveness falling. Crime in England and Wales is at a 20-year high with only 5.6 per cent of offences reported to police resulting in anyone being charged with a crime. The public's confidence in the police is falling because of a combination of factors, including an increase in crime, dwindling resources and what appears to be the overwhelming focus on non-crimes!

Criminals no longer have anything to fear, unless of course they inadvertently use the wrong pronouns when separating their victims from their possessions during a mugging! The chances of being apprehended for an actual crime in 21st Century UK is pretty slim.

The problem is not only misguided leadership, but also the fact there doesn't seem to be any police out there?! They seem to have all but disappeared. Some parts of Sussex haven't seen a Constable for a considerable period of time. I can't recall when I last saw a member of the police, (apart from that group routinely drinking coffee outside the BP garage near Avery Park Greenwich)!

The contrast between UK police and those in other countries is stark! When stopped by a Texas State Trooper outside of Austin for accidentally going over the speed limit, I quickly confessed to all manner of indiscretions, including the raiding of my daughter's piggy bank for parking change. Suffice to say, I sang like a canary, each confession punctuated by Sir!

The British Bobby (if you can find one), doesn't command the same level of respect. Possibly one Macarena too much! Dance offs aside, the continual images in the media of police taking the knee or standing by as monuments are pulled down, hasn't done them any favours!

The British people want the Police to work, they want to believe that we are still a country of law and order, one where those who break the law are justly punished. Unfortunately I think it may be too late for the Police to reclaim the same level of public confidence enjoyed in the past. One possible way forward would be an acceleration in the use of private security to support front line policing.

It is ironic that the Police who evolved out of the old Night Watchmen, often privately funded, are gradually moving aside for private security. Security personnel, protect all manner of property throughout the UK, from hospitals to airports. They guard shops, patrol streets, respond to alarm activations and provide safety at events.

During the recent pandemic security personnel continued to work, becoming in essence an extension of the emergency services. The role of private security will continue to grow whilst that of the police diminishes.

The impending cost of living crisis will bring things to a head, accelerating the drive to identify and implement financial efficiencies across all areas of the public sector, including the Police service. Police will gradually move away from front line crime prevention, focusing instead on the big ticket stuff, such as terrorism, drugs and organised crime, creating increasing opportunities for private security to step into the void. This is already happening across the UK in the form of CSAS initiatives. Better a private security officer patrolling the streets than no one.

No one can predict the future with any certainty, but the increasing sophistication and professionalism of the private security sector coupled with the emergence of more advanced technology is going to permanently alter the landscape.

One major benefit the private sector has over the public is the ability to innovate, to embrace emerging technology, to adapt and grow. The private sector is therefore perfectly placed to leverage the benefits associated with the emergence of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and robotics.

As the use of private security becomes increasingly widespread, it is likely that the public will come to see them as something more than a necessary evil, especially as the wider use of private security will provide a more visual presence on UK streets.

This shift in perception could have profound implications for the role of police and their relationship with the general public. Overall, the role of private security is set to continue to grow, becoming an ever-more important part of our society.


About the Author: Justin Quigley, is a recognised security expert in the protection of property through the introduction and deployment of technical and non-technical security measures, including CCTV towers, video verification systems, fencing, perimeter protection technology, hostile vehicle barriers, alarms and analytical camera systems. He is a prolific writer on the subject of crime prevention, security technology and void property security.

Justin currently works for one the UK's largest security companies (Ward Security) as well as providing consultancy services to both the property and construction sectors.

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