Urban Associations Turn to Private Sector for Security

Community Associations HOA Management Blog | Information for HOA Management Companies and Homeowner Association Boards

A disturbing new trend is emerging in urban community associations across the nation. As municipal governments in many American cities are struggling with budget and personnel cuts, crime is on the rise. In cities such as Oakland, Detroit, and Atlanta, upper-class communities are turning to the private sector to provide their security and protect their most valuable assets.
The National League of Cities has reported that since 2007, American cities have seen a decrease in revenue. In 2010, the Oakland Police Department was forced to cut 80 officers. This has hindered the police department’s ability to quickly respond to calls and to effectively patrol neighborhoods. Private security companies are now moving from shopping malls to homeowners associations in response to the growing demand for safe neighborhoods.
Depending on the services offered, homeowners can hire a private company to patrol the community and ensure their safety for around $30 each month. The services offered may include video surveillance, random street patrols, car-to-house escorts, or check-ins while homeowners are on vacation. Community associations have contracted private security firms for years; however, the concept of hiring a firm to replace the police and patrol the streets is something new. Not only is it new, but it’s catching on fast. Consequently, the private security industry is predicted to expand by as much as 19% by 2020.
Independent studies have proven that private security companies are actually effective in lowering crime. An 11% decrease in crime in industrial areas of Los Angeles was attributed to private security companies that had patrolled the area. This study was conducted by professors from the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University.
However, this solution is not without its flaws; as effective as private security companies are, they are not a replacement for police officers. Security officers do not have the legal jurisdiction that police officers do. Because no universal regulation exists for private security, cities and states across the country manage it differently. This opens the door for civil action against security officers in a variety of situations.
Critics of this trend are concerned about the message being sent to the communities which cannot afford private security. The concept of having to pay for one’s own safety, which is a fundamental responsibility of the government, is difficult to grasp for many taxpayers. Exactly how this movement will evolve is yet to be seen. What is very clear, however, is that a reasonable solution is needed to ensure the safety of urban America’s community associations.