In today’s age of terrorism, many of the old “rental cops” have been replaced by security officers who are screened, licensed, trained, and equipped better than their quaint predecessors, says the Arizona Republic. Homeland defense experts like former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy, say the enhanced professionalism is critical because the private-security industry defends more than three-fourths of the nation’s most likely terrorism targets. Says Kennedy, vice chairman of Guardsmark LLC, “You name any industry, and you’re going to find private security is protecting it. And I don’t believe the public is really aware of that.”
Security firms are consolidating, specializing and becoming more professional, and their employees are better screened and equipped to combat attacks, said Gregory A. Thomas of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. Worldwide, private-security company revenues have been estimated at $100 billion by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The institute estimates the industry income will double by 2010. The nation’s security companies employ 1.5 million people and spend $52 billion per year, compared with public police agencies that have 600,000 workers and spend $30 billion, says James Pastor, author of The Privatization of Police in America. Because government officers are more expensive, Pastor sees private guards absorbing roles once held by public peace officers, protecting stores and neighborhoods.