The origins of private security can be traced in the UK back to the 17th Century where a growing concern for the increasing levels of crime in London caused officials to offer rewards for the capture of thieves. The men that stepped forward were known as “Thief-takers” and would receive a reward for capturing suspected thieves. Corruption soon set in within this group of men when they started to also encouraged thieving to increase their profits. By doing so they were able to claim a reward for capturing the thief as well as claiming a reward from the victims for returning their stolen property (Department of Criminology 2013). These men are one of, if not the, earliest from of private security contractor that can be found and are quite a contrast from the modern day security officer, especially when considering the massive growth that the security industry has experienced.
A study carried out in 1995 by Jap De Waard estimated that nearly 600,000 security operators were operating across the 15 member states of the European Union (EU), while the Security Industry Authority’s (SIA) current statistics on licensing show that as of 01 August 2013, over 378 thousand security licenses were currently issued. Although these statistics are not concrete evidence due to security officers in the UK, in some cases having multiple sector licenses, and De Waard advising that the results from his 1995 study should be seen as ‘approximations rather than exact measures’, these statistics still show that over an 18 year period the size of the security industry in the UK alone is now over half the size of the estimated industry across the entire EU some 18 years ago. An even greater comparison can be made between the London 1948 and 2012 Olympics.
A BBC news article published on-line in June 2011 interviewed one Mr Edgar Candlish about his experience at the 1948 London Olympics. Mr Candlish revealed that the lack of any security enabled him to approach the top athletes competing at the time, even getting close enough to talk with them while they warmed up for their event (BBC News Lincolnshire, 2011: n.p.). Moving forward to the 2012 Olympics and a House of Commons authorised review of Olympic security by the Home Affairs Committee for the HM Government (2012) states that 23,700 private security personnel were needed to keep the games safe. This is as well as 15,000 police officers deployed daily, (on peak days) and a peak of 18,200 soldiers, all maintaining security across the London 2012 Olympic venues. While it fair to assume that there would have been some form of security presence at the 1948 Olympics, it is obvious, by the mere fact that Mr Candlish observed no security at all, that the numbers of security at the 2012 London Olympics have far, far outweighed what would have been employed during the former Olympic event. Put in simple terms, on the face of it the two games separated by 54 years, appear to have a difference of over 50,000 security personnel!
Terrorism, which is another contributing factor to the growth of the security industry, could be argued to be one of the greatest contributors to its rapid growth, particularly since the events of September 11, 2001 (commonly referred to as the 9/11 attacks), where the world witnessed the largest terrorist attack in history. Since that moment, people all around the world have had a heightened awareness of security, especially in the United States. An opinion poll conducted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs show’s that 36% of respondents in 2002 thought that terrorism was now one of two or three of their countries biggest problems, compared to 0% in 1995 (World Views 2002, 2002:10). Furthermore, 6 years later in 2008 an opinion poll showed that 67% of Americans polled still thought that combating terrorism was “very important” (Global Views 2008, 2008:1). These figures show that opinions in America against combating terrorism are strong. This is important, especially when considering the global growth of the security industry. The concerns of the general public in America afford the U.S. Government more power to increase security operations. Their increased security operations at airports and the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are evidence of this. The TSA website notes: Following September 11, 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created to strengthen the security of the nation’s transportation systems and ensure the freedom of movement for people and commerce. Today, TSA secures the nation’s airports and screens all commercial airline passengers and baggage. TSA uses a risk-based strategy and works closely with transportation, law enforcement and intelligence communities to set the standard for excellence in transportation security (Transportation Security Administration, 2013: n.p.).
The TSA is a very large organisation, controlling security at all of America’s airports and has played a large part in increasing the security industry, particularly in the United States. It is a good example of where the government has reacted to an incident and tried to increase safety. In the UK there has been an ongoing threat of terrorism since the 1970’s. This constant threat has thrown security into the public eye. People expect security to be present at shopping centres and places where there are large crowds such as large scale events and festivals. The general public are also critical in spotting suspicious devices that may be planted by terrorist organisations. This expectation has created a greater demand for the private security industry in terms of front-line manpower. The figures used previously to highlight the development of the security package delivered for the London 2012 Olympic Games are a prime example.
Those figures show that during the 1948 London Olympics, even though World War 2 had only recently ended, at a time where world peace was at a critical stage, security was not a major concern. Fast forward 54 years to the 2012 games and it is quite clear that security was a major concern for the organisers of the event and that a major part of that concern was terrorism, so much so, that the government utilised anti aircraft missile systems to stop a repeat of the 9/11 attacks. In fact, the July 7 2005 bombings of London may have further fuelled this concern given the fact that the attacks happened just one day after London was awarded the Olympic Games commonly known as the 7/7 terror attacks.
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