Academic journal article Social Justice

Securing the City: Emerging Markets in the Private Provision of Security Services in Chicago

Academic journal article Social Justice

Securing the City: Emerging Markets in the Private Provision of Security Services in Chicago

Article excerpt

THE PAST 30 Y EARS HAVE WITNESSED A TRANSFORMATION IN THE GOVERNANCE OF RISK and security, one that has been marked by a distinct movement away from the public provision of policing and toward both marketized and community-based forms of security (Bayley and Shearing, 2001; see also Crawford, 1997; Eick, 2003; Garland, 2001 ; Rigakos, 2002; Rosenbaum, 1988; Ward, 2006). In U.S. cities this double movement has been executed through a proliferation of community policing initiatives and a sharp rise in the use of private security contractors, not just by the private sector, but by the public sector as well. This movement downward and outward from the state has followed the popular ascendancy of a new discourse of insecurity--a root-and-branch critique of the role and effectiveness of public policing in contemporary society. Since the 1960s, frequent depictions of mounting urban unrest--"bombed out" inner-city neighborhoods, street-gang warfare, and urban rioting (see Banfieid, 1968; Chicago Tribune, 1986; Welch, Price, and Yankey, 2002)--have formed the backdrop and been the justification for renewed calls for law-and-order style policing. The ideo-political arguments that underpin this critique are varied, and include notions about state failure and a concomitant expansion of the role of civil society and markets in managing security concerns.

The state's ability to effectively deter crime and punish offenders has frequently been described by proponents of law-and-order policing as having been fundamentally eroded by bureaucratic constraints and cumbersome procedural rules that have hamstrung public policing efforts and undermined the capacity of the criminal justice system to mete out appropriate punishment (see Braithwaite and Pettit, 1990; Reinharz, 1996; Garland, 2000; Bayley and Shearing, 2001). This critique of public policing in the contemporary context strikes at the core of modernist ideas of crime and antisocial behavior. Whereas these traditionally have been seen as problems arising out of deprivation and limited economic opportunity, they now are viewed as resulting from inadequate social and self-control. Citing varying interpretations of crime rates as an example of the shift in the commonsense understanding of insecurity, David Garland (200l: 20) notes that "where high crime ... rates would once have been attributed to implementation-failure ... they are now interpreted as evidence of theory-failure: as signs that crime control is based upon an institutional model that is singularly inappropriate for its task." In other words, proponents of this critique charge that rather than simply stepping up existing law enforcement efforts, a paradigm shift that re-conceptualizes policing is necessary. If public law enforcement is to rise to this challenge, new partners, technologies, and strategies will be required. This has led to, among other things, increased calls for non-state forms of policing, particularly commoditized forms of security that can be made available and purchased through markets.

The dominant critique of public policing is laced with neoliberal ideology that lauds the virtues of private-sector managerialism (which is seen as an antidote to the overly bureaucratic public sector) and market efficiencies that are said to come from privatization. Neoconservative social commentators have seized on this critique to advance their own vision of policing, one that has been extraordinarily successful in reshaping popular opinion on policing and public safety. The resulting commonsense understanding of security--that the police cannot be everywhere, that more security is needed, and that effective crime control begins with the maintenance of social order (along the lines of the "broken windows" thesis)--has (unintentionally perhaps) laid the foundation for the rapid growth of the private security industry in major U.S. cities.

This article explores the expansion of private security provision that has been underway in Chicago. …

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