Private guards outnumber police worldwide: survey
Private security companies employ up to 25.5 million people across the world, exceeding the number of police officers, and hold up to 3.7 million firearms, a survey said Wednesday.
"The global trend towards downsizing government, including public security institutions, has contributed to the growth of the private security sector," said the Geneva Graduate Institute's small arms survey.
"In prisons, at airports, along borders and on the street, security provision is increasingly in the hands of private actors," said Keith Krause, director of the survey project.
"The key question -- to which we don't know the answer -- is whether these evolving arrangements are enhancing or impairing security," he said.
The formal private security sector now employs between 19.5 million and 25.5 million people worldwide.
"The number of PSC (private security company) personnel has grown at a fast pace since the mid-1980s and exceeds the number of police officers at the global level," it said.
Latin America showed the highest rates of private guards versus police, such as Guatemala which had just 19,974 police officers, but 120,000 private security personnel.
Private guards in India numbered seven million while the police count was 1.4 million, China too, reported five million private guards to 2.7 million police officers.
Private security officers reached 2 million in the United States while its private security officers were at 883,600.
In all, these private guards worldwide held between 1.7 and 3.7 million firearms, although this stockpile would be higher if undeclared and illegally owned weapons were included.
Latin American security personnel appeared to be the most heavily armed outside of conflict zones, with their arms per employee at about 10 times that of western Europe.
While firearms held by the public security sector is a fraction of the 26 million held by law enforcement agencies as well as the 200 million held by armed forces, there was little transparency about how their usage was being regulated or monitored.
"Little is reported or known about the actual quantities and types of firearms held by PSCs," noted the survey.
"In many countries, official standards for the management and safeguarding of PSC weapons, as well as for the training of PSC personnel, are non-existent.
"More worrying, the monitoring of PSCs firearm holdings and use has progressed only in isolated cases and in response to highly publicised abuses," it said.
In the absence of international rules, the industry had come up with their own standards.
But the survey urged greater transparency, as it would "enhance the ability to measure progress and hold the industry to international standards."
© 2011 AFP