As you may have heard, Baltimore is having a pretty crime-y summer. In circumstances like these, it’s hard to fault anyone for wanting a little more protection. But are private security patrols — like those hired or considering being hired by Charles Village, Little Italy, and Highlandtown — a good idea?
Neighborhoods bring in private firms when they feel as though the police presence isn’t adequate, or that crime is getting out of control. That’s the case in Little Italy, where a security camera recently captured video of a man being beaten up and robbed by a group of men. Charles Village has paid for supplemental security with a special surtax for nearly two decades now.
This is hardly just a Baltimore thing. From Oakland to Atlanta to Detroit, wealthy (or wealthy-ish) neighborhoods have seen fit to hire on private security firms, often as a result of defunded local police departments.
But there are plenty of questions about the role that these private security forces play. What are their rights and responsibilities? (A private security officer in Charles Village catcalled me once. If he’d been a straightforward cop, I would’ve known who to complain to, and I imagine there are policies in place to deal with that sort of misbehavior. But I have no idea who he worked for, so I just kept walking.) Should they have guns? What if they shoot someone? And then, of course, there are the larger moral issues at play. Clearly, poor neighborhoods — often the places where residents are at the greatest risk of being a victim of a crime — aren’t pooling their tax dollars to invest in private security. Is that something we’re okay with as a society?
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