Securing Public Places: New Zealand’s Private Security Sector as a National Security Enabler

Author: Dynon, N.
Published in National Security Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2019

– isn’t helpful. In the New Zealand context, although the state in general and the police in particular have a history of engaging private security providers, this has tended to be in relation to lower-value, routine activities only. International experience suggests that New Zealand lags behind other comparable jurisdictions, such as Sweden, the UK and Australia, in fostering public-private cooperation in the security sector.

Private versus public security sector

This paper focuses on the activities of three of the eight classes of ‘persons’ (individuals and companies) who are required by Section 23 of the Private Security Personnel and Pri­vate Investigators Act 2010 (PSPPI Act) to hold a private security licence or certificate of approval (CoA); specifically property guards, personal guards, and crowd controllers.9 These persons are described as operating within the ‘personnel’ sector of the broader security industry, although definitions of this sector vary considerably, and questions among researchers over which occupations constitute it remain unresolved. Defini­tions invariably include roles such as door staff, bouncers and bar security, stewards, concierge staff, gatehouse staff, close personal protection officers, bodyguards, static guards, watchpersons, covert and overt loss prevention officers, cash-in-transit officers, behaviour detection officers, patrol officers, alarm responders, and control room and monitoring centre operators.

Although the private security industry tends to be defined in terms of what distinguish­es it from providers of public security services, such as the police, the dichotomies be­tween ‘public’ and ‘private’ police and policing are widely seen as increasingly unclear. Traditional policing activities are now conducted not just by ‘the police’ but by a host of private and non-government operatives who use a range of empowerment tools and resources at their disposal, including criminal law, by-laws, and non-legal instruments such as conditions of entry. Terms such as ‘pluralisation’, ‘greying’ or ‘fragmentation’ of policing, ‘para-’ or ‘hybrid’ policing, ‘continuum of activity’, ‘security quilt’ and ‘mixed economy of protection’ are used to describe this dynamic.10 Such nomenclature is re­flected in the aforementioned 2012 Formal Review of the New Zealand Police:

An opportunity for improving policing outcomes, and managing the growing demand for Police assistance, is for Police to find ways to work more effectively in a pluralistic policing environment. In many commu­nities Police is one of a number of ‘policing’ agencies.

The growing role of the private security sector globally in law enforcement and related activities – including in New Zealand – is widely acknowledged.11 Indeed, according to Button, there “are very few activities in the broader criminal justice system and polic­ing that private security is not undertaking or is not capable of doing.”12 Stenning and Shearing list three often-cited explanations for this growth in private security: (i) the privatisation of publicly provided services and ‘responsibilisation’ strategies encouraged