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Are private security officers replacing police in America?

Private security services currently offer many advantages that make them a preferred choice for individuals, businesses, and organizations.
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In the last five years, the need for private security officers in America has seen a huge increase. Since 2019, we have observed a struggle within law enforcement agencies across the nation to recruit new applicants, a mass exodus of many of the experienced police officers following the backlash against police after George Floyd’s incident, a high number of protests, and COVID and post-COVID safety concerns that required more officers for healthcare institutions, corporations, and retail places. While police departments had to deal with combination of the loss of their funding and losing officers faster than they could hire new ones, crime was rising in America. According to FBI data, between 2019 and 2021 the number of sworn officers dropped 7%. Another survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum and published in April 2023, revealed that police departments saw 19% more retirements and 47% more resignations in 2022 compared to 2019. This means that total sworn staffing had decreased by nearly 5% over the past three years.

In a study conducted by Statista in 2021, it was revealed that the number of public police officers in the United States saw a modest increase from 675,734 in 2004 to just under 700,000 by the end of 2019. In contrast, the number of outsourced security guards in the U.S. was estimated to be around 830,000 during the same period. This translates to a ratio of approximately 1.2 outsourced security guards for every public police officer. The study also highlighted a significant difference in growth rates between the public police force and outsourced security guards. From 2004 to 2019, the compound growth rate for the public police force was recorded at only 0.24%, a stark comparison to the higher growth rate observed in the outsourced security sector.

The Time’s article highlights the findings of the Security Industry Association that by 2021, for every 1,000 civilians there were 2 police officers but 3.1 security guards and that today there are twice as many security officers employed in our country than there were 20 years ago. According to Precedence’s research report, the U.S. security market in 2023 was valued at $34.58 billion, and by 2032, it is expected to reach $71.46 billion.

Can private security companies seize the moment?

As we have seen, the role of private security has undergone a significant transformation since September 11, 2001. Once hired to protect the interests of the rich and famous, today’s private security firms play an integral part in safeguarding communities, small businesses, and different institutions across the nation. Many States like Virginia, Texas, South Carolina, and DC were the first to recognize the significance of private security and have even given armed security officers police powers on site. As crime rates have spiked and the police are more and more absent due to lack of personnel and their corresponding response times being longer and longer, home associations, local businesses, places of worship, and educational institutions are increasingly turning to private security firms to supplement traditional law enforcement efforts. Owning a security company today can be highly profitable; however, profitability is not automatic. It requires strategic business planning, identifying market and clients’ needs, investing in competent personnel, possessing proper equipment and advanced technology, and consistently delivering high standard services.

According to the statistics by IBISWorld, as of 2023 in the United States, we have 11,046 Security Services businesses registered, with the most number of businesses being registered in California (3,006 businesses), Florida (1,595 businesses) and Texas (1,402 businesses.) This number of 11,046 businesses represents an increase of 0.4% from 2022 showing that the number of businesses in the Security Services industry in the US has grown 0.4% per year on average over the five-year period between 2018 – 2023.

If you are a security company owner or you are looking to invest and open a security company, you should know that success in this industry goes far beyond simply providing bodies to protect individuals, assets, or corporations. It’s about building a team of dedicated professionals who are not only skilled in their protective

roles but also feel valued and supported. If an employee feels valued and is happy with his position, he will likely provide better services.

What are some of the advantages clients see for hiring private security officers?

Private security services currently offer many advantages that make them a preferred choice for individuals, businesses, and organizations seeking to protect their assets, personnel, and interests. It is important to understand why the client is reaching out to you and what they are looking to receive from your services prior to speaking to them about their specific needs.

Clients are looking for customized solutions that will address their particular security needs. Whether it’s security for a corporate event, residential security, or retail security services, they are in need of a company that can provide flexibility and responsiveness. A company that can quickly adapt to their changing security requirements and provide flexible solutions to accommodate evolving threats or circumstances. Whether it’s increasing security presence during customers peak times or protests, adjusting patrol routes based on emerging risks, or deploying additional resources such as the use of K9 units in response to specific threats, private security firms offer solutions that may not always be feasible for public law enforcement agencies. Another important thing to consider is that when clients reach out to private security companies, they are looking for that proactive approach, they want you to be able to mitigate risks before they escalate into serious incidents for their families, communities, or organizations. While they are expecting from law enforcement agencies to enforce laws and respond to emergencies, they are expecting the private security firms to either proactively prevent circumstances from becoming dangerous, or handle the different incidents professionally until law enforcement arrives.

Now it is time for private security companies to shine!

The fact that there is a rise in services and clients that are willing to pay for said services, this should in no way cause company owners neglect their responsibilities towards their clients. On the contrary, as the demand for private security services continues to surge, it is important that company owners uphold their obligations to their clients with the utmost diligence and integrity. Being committed to replacing public law enforcement agents or to supplement their efforts should be considered an important task.

As a private security company owner, you have a responsibility to prioritize not only the safety and well-being of your clients but also your security officers as well. This means ensuring that your security personnel are properly trained (at or above state licensing requirements), equipped with the necessary skills, equipment, and tools, and prepared to effectively mitigate risks and respond to security threats quickly and professionally. Invest in comprehensive training programs that go beyond the basic requirements. By offering ongoing professional development, you demonstrate not only your commitment to your employees’ growth and success, but also your dedication to your clients and their safety by investing in your people’s additional education. And let’s not forget that today, more than ever before, there are quite a number of training options available for private security officers to make them better prepared and skilled to excel at their job.

One of the most important duties for security companies is the background check they conduct before hiring and placing a security employee with a client. In theory, all will say background checks are mandatory. But the truth be told, there are only a few security companies that consistently run background checks on the personnel they employ. The majority don’t, and sadly it’s because, quite often, they are in such an incredible hurry to find the bodies required to cover an urgent detail, and the unwanted denials due to disqualification, they do not want the hassle that comes with it. And also, too often they do not know, nor do they have the people who know, how to conduct a competent background check. Employee background checks are important for EVERY business no matter what services they offer. When it comes to companies that provide security services, because of the nature of the job, background checks are not just important, they are mandatory! It is our responsibility toward our clients to make sure we have vetted and screened the people who will be tasked with their safety.

Being transparent is another important duty for company owners. This includes being honest about what you can actually provide, what your capabilities are, and clearly outlining the scope of services, explaining any potential limitations or risks, and addressing any concerns or questions your clients may have. It also includes keeping up with legal and regulatory requirements, making sure your company and your officers are licensed and insured. Another point to keep in mind, there are some police officers who do side jobs and work security gigs, but quite often, they do not hold the necessary or required liability insurance to cover damages to a client’s property or for follow-on legal circumstances due to force-on-force, or use of lethal/less than lethal force. You cannot simply rely on qualified immunity which only covers the officer, (And often only while on duty) but also leaves the client unprotected, and some clients want more than just licensing but also a depth of insurance coverage. So, ask yourself if you are providing everything the client is paying for and if you are focusing on the quality of the services you provide. Most of the times quality comes with taking care of your own people. If your officers are taken care of, vetted, well paid, well trained and empowered, then you can rest assured that your clients will be taken care of as well.

Due to the latest social-economic changes and challenges our country has been facing lately, one thing is for sure…The need for private security services won’t go away any time soon. On the contrary, it will be in high demand. It is time for those who own security companies to stand out. Focus on the quality of the services you provide and the people you hire. Being able to take care of your people can be a powerful tool for your organization’s development and can make you stand out in our very competitive industry.

As a security company owner, remember that success isn’t just measured by the client contracts you’ve secured or revenue generated, but also by the positive impact you have had on the lives of those who contribute to your company’s growth and the very foundation that your company stands on. Start prioritizing the well- being of your people, and you’ll witness the amazingly transformative power it will generate for your organization as a whole.

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