History of Private Security
Introduction to Security: Operations and Management
University Of Maryland University College
23 October 2011
Private security industry in the United States can be traced as far back as the mid nineteenth century, where they were primarily used to help fill the gaps created by public police forces in major cities that were just forming. Over the years the role of private security has changed, from its simplest form of protecting people, property, and information to a more complex form, of individuals and businesses that provide, for a fee, services to clientele to protect their persons, their private property, or their interests from various hazards. Early in its existence training for private security was non-existent or inadequate at best, over the years training has evolved and with that evolution came strict standards and guidelines.
Unlike in Europe, where public law enforcement emerged out of private security, in the United States private security emerged out of public law enforcement. Europeans brought many of the methods they used to protect people and property with them when they immigrated to the United States in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The positions of constable, watchman, and sheriff were borrowed from the English and were used to establish the first system of public law enforcement in the United States. As rapid growth occurred in the West throughout the early 1800s, it became clear that constables and watchmen weren't going to be able to provide the expansive services necessary to protect people and their property (Stone, 2002).
It wasn't until the late 1700s that municipal police agencies were implemented in major American cities. Established in 1844, the New York City police department provided twenty- four-hour police protection to its citizens. Thirty years later, most large cities had a similar system of public law enforcement; yet this system was not enough to keep pace with the rapidly growing American society (Stone, 2002). One of the first private security agencies to come into existence was Pinkerton's North West Police Agency in 1855. The agency offered private watchmen services for rail yards and industrial complexes. In 1859, Perry Brink started Brink's Inc. as a freight and package delivery service. A few decades later, Brinks Inc. evolved into the country's first armored car and courier service. By the early 1900s, numerous former federal agents and detectives had opened up their own private security companies to include the first burglar alarm service (Maine, 2011).
Between 1929 and 1939, private security employment declined as a result of the Great
Depression but rebounded between 1940 and 1945, due to the need to protect the United States
infrastructure and military and industrial facilities during World War II, the use of private
security increased. After World War II, private security once again began to grow, due to many
returning veterans, with military police experience selecting police work and private security as
occupations (Ortmeier, 2009). In 1955, a group of security professionals formed the American
Society for Industrial Security (ASIS). Today, ASIS International’s membership exceeds 37,000,
making it the preeminent organization for security professionals (American Society for Industrial
Security [ASIS], 2011).
Private security is a fast-growing industry. The Department of Labor predicts a healthy
double-digit growth rate through 2016. Statistics on the number of individuals involved in this
market are difficult to ascertain because of an extremely high turnover rate and because the term
“security worker” admits of different interpretations. However, there are some...
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