Employing Private Security

People can take to employing private security, some of whom may be armed, if they distrust the ability of the police force to protect them.

This is a pattern which is widespread in South Africa, for example. A Christian Science Monitor article, Backstory: In South Africa, home sweet fortress, included this quotation:

“In South Africa, nothing says “Home Sweet Home” like 10-foot walls, electric fencing, burglar bars, and at least one panic button wired directly to an armed-response team, licensed to shoot, if not kill.”

Armed security guards are subject to the law, in the same way that the police are, but they may not have had the same level of training – so they put the public at risk.  George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin in the incident referred to earlier (7.2.3), was described as a “neighborhood watch captain” – highlighting the difference between an American armed watch and the British concept of neighbours being vigilant (

The most dangerous form of ‘self-service’ in policing is the formation of vigilante groups or militias.  Some militias, which are created by ethnic groups to protect themselves, provide a ready means of escalating tensions into more serious violence – such as that which occurred during the partition of India (


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/7233.htm.