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Private Security's Purchase: Imaginings of a Security Patrol in a Canadian Residential Neighbourhood

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 49 Issue: 5 Dated: December 2007 Pages: 587-616
Jeffrey Brown; Randy Lippert
Date Published
December 2007
30 pages
Drawing primarily on indepth interviews with residents of an affluent Ontario (Canada) neighborhood in which residents hired a private firm to provide security patrols, this exploratory study examined residents' perceptions of the patrols and the context for their purchase of private security.
The interviews indicated that residents who subscribed to the private security service had no compelling need for the service, but given their relatively high incomes, the cost-benefit of the service was not an issue, as one subscriber commented in deciding to purchase the service, "What the hell, why not?" Another factor evident in the purchase of private security was having a tool for controlling neighborhood territory so as to exclude nonresidents from using the neighborhood facilities; e.g., a nonresident walking a dog on neighborhood sidewalks was told to cease doing so. Property crime, such as vandalism and break-ins, were consistently claimed to be the neighborhood's foremost security problem; however, residents acknowledged that absolute security against burglary and vandalism was impossible. Residents tended to view their own efforts at securing their homes with alarms, locks, and other technologies as being more effective in protecting personal property. Residents also believed that public police were not as accessible as private patrols hired to focus specifically on one's safety and territorial concerns. These findings suggest that perceptions of the value of private patrols in preventing serious harms to residents are weak and would not have persuaded them to purchase such a service if it required a much higher proportion of their incomes. This indicates that private neighborhood security will not proliferate across all types of Canadian neighborhoods. Research procedures included neighborhood site visits in 2004, 2005, and 2006; collection of program marketing materials; a review of media accounts of residents' claims about the program; and personal interviews with residents. 17 notes and 66 references