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

by neo-liberal governance agendas; (ii) changes in the nature of property ownership, in particular the development of privately owned public spaces; and (iii) filling gaps in public policing services in times of fiscal cuts (although this could be classified as a subset of ‘responsibilisation’).

Privatisation of publicly provided services

Private security is widely seen as the market’s answer to the retreat of the state from certain public policing functions, yet this is an area contested among researchers. The rise of private security is seen by some as a reaction to the perceived institutional failure of public security. Pavarini, for example, notes that public efforts to provide safeguards against criminality “are perceived as being unable to meet the social demand for secu­rity.”13 This, he suggests, may be more the result of subjective perceptions of insecurity as opposed to an increase in levels of actual insecurity. Others, such as Cleghorn et al, point to rising crime rate statistics as a driving force for the industry’s growth.14 A range of perspectives are summed up by Zedner:

Security is bought because people can afford to do so; because they have so internalised the ‘responsibilisation’ strategies of governments they consider it their duty to do so; because it adds value to their property; reduces their insurance premiums; or prevents them from falling behind their more security conscious neighbours.15

In the UK, promotion by the state of private sector involvement in criminal justice through legislative change, outsourcing and the fostering of partnerships has bolstered the legitimacy of the private security industry and resulted in a greater public security role for private security providers. Project Griffin is perhaps the best-known example of this. Garland describes this trend as a strategy of ‘responsibilisation’ in which the state seeks to promote action by non-state organisations in a ‘shared’ approach to crime control.16

According to Cleghorn et al, up until the 1980s “most New Zealanders believed that their personal protection and the protection of their property was guaranteed by the Government through its law enforcement agencies.”17 Decades of privatisation and de­regulation following 1974’s Private Investigators and Security Guards Act have to some ex­tent diluted the state’s security monopoly into a more complex dominance supported by a network of non-government suppliers and stakeholders. Bradley notes that between 1976 and 2012 the country’s licensed security industry grew by over 1,000%, while over the same period, the police grew by a relatively modest 117%.18 Such figures support the notion shared by NZSA CEO Gary Morrison and ASIS International New Zealand Chapter (ASIS NZ)19 Chair Andrew Thorburn that “the driver [for industry growth] has been where private policing is taking over from what is no longer public policing”.20 According to Morrison, the growth in mobile security patrols, for example, stems from