The Historical Growth of Private Security in the United States

The private security industry has played a significant role in U.S. history and has been expanding its national presence since the 19th century. There are several factors that have significantly contributed to this growth. Generally, the major factors in the 19th century include, “the growth of the commercial sector, the great westward expansion of America in the 1840s and 1850s, the U.S. railroad systems, industrialization/unionization, and labor disputes” (Nemeth 8). Because of these factors, much of the public police forces were strained and sometimes either unable or unwilling to provide the necessary security for private interests. Additionally, many public police forces lacked experience, were undertrained, and had jurisdictional (county and state) restraints (Nemeth 8). The lack of an effective public police force created the perfect niche for private security and a man by the name of Allan Pinkerton helped fill that void with his national private detective and security company (Nemeth 9). Because of the considerable security needs in the private sector, and a public police force that was understaffed, undertrained, and had significant jurisdictional restrictions, the private security industry flourished and grew drastically in the following years. World War I, World War II, and the Cold War assured the continued growth of the private security industry in the 20th Century. Generally, “the secrecy and vulnerability of war usually brings a demand for more internal security” (Nemeth 12). Some of the contributing factors for increased security during a time of war include a greater need of the government to; protect secrets and information from falling into the hands of the enemy, protect critical infrastructure from attack, provide government buildings and officials with protection from attack, and increase the response effort for any attack on U.S. soil (Nemeth 12-13). Additionally, much During the Cold War, there was a constant threat of a nuclear attack for the Soviet Union and this “secrecy and vulnerability” in the United States was significantly increased due to the magnitude of the threat. This led the founding of The Wachenhut Corporation and its subsequent growth to becoming, “one of the largest private security contractors in the United States” (Nemeth 13). The growth in private security has continued to go up since the 19th century and the projections for future growth remain positive (Nemeth 12-16). Post 9/11 America has seen a continued growth rate for private security because terrorism.

Work Cited:

Nemeth, Charles P. “Private Security and the Law”. 4th Edition. New York. 2012. Print.