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

of legal and philosophical debate over accessibility, surveillance and conditions of en­try.29 A number of researchers, including Giddens and Wakefield, note that designers and managers of POPS foster a sense of ‘ontological security’ among the users of their spaces, using safety and security as a key element in the attraction of patronage and, ultimately, the achievement of commercial success. Private security officers in these locations often enforce rules and behavioural conditions set by premise owners that are more restrictive than one might be subject to in a public space owned by the state.

Spatial privatisation is not limited to single buildings, with multi-building ‘precincts’ and in some cases multiple city blocks – and the lanes and thoroughfares that criss-cross them – in private hands. Minton, for example, notes “the rise of individual land­lords owning and managing entire city centre schemes.”30 This can be seen in massive multi-block developments, such as London’s Canary Wharf, but also in New Zealand in developments such as downtown Auckland’s privately-owned Britomart precinct. Importantly, and as critics of spatial privatisation note, given that POPS have the look and feel of public land, a pedestrian may not have any awareness of where the public land ends and privately-owned space begins.31 According to Auckland CBD business association Heart of the City:

We’ve seen a laneway renaissance in downtown Auckland over the last few years, with property owners turning under-used ground floors and carparks into vibrant areas for bars, cafes, and most importantly, people… One thing that Britomart and the Fort Street area have in common is the blurring between public and private spaces, with privately owned lane­ways that look like public streets and even have the same style of paving stones carrying through from the street outside.32

In shared-street contexts, there is also the dynamic of what Kayden terms ‘café creep,’ ‘brasserie bulge’ or ‘trattoria trickle’ – where publicly-owned space is encroached upon by private shop operators. Occuring on sidewalks, pedestrian laneways and pedestrian­ised malls that are typically highly vulnerable to terror and fixated person attack, these spaces further complicate the already complex relationship between public and private spaces and the management of the security and safety of these.33

Security Guards: A counter-terror force-multiplier?

Superior numbers

The aforementioned growth in the private security industry is best illustrated by the fact that in recent decades in increases in private security personnel numbers have out­stripped that of police personnel numbers. As Button notes, research confirms that this expansion has led to the outnumbering of police officers by private security personnel