At a recent Philadelphia community fair, children jumped in bouncy houses and homegrown rappers performed, while steps away, four armed guards patrolled. It's part of a growing trend in Philadelphia where armed guards are being summoned to stand sentinel near neighborhood gatherings, outside churches and mosques, and -- the Trace reports.
Between 2019 and 2022, the number of newly certified private guards and those renewing their licenses rose by 9.5 percent in Philadelphia, from 569 to 623, according to the State Police. Statewide, that number increased by 6.7 percent, from 3,212 to 3,428. Pennsylvania isn’t alone.
Nationally, private security officers outnumber public police 1.3 million to 800,000, said Rick McCann, founder of Private Officer International, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based association that advocates for and tracks the private policing industry. That’s an increase of 33 percent over 10 years and 36 percent of private-security officers are armed, he said. McCann, like others, lament that training requirements for private officers generally fall far short of those in traditional policing.
The dark side of the loosely regulated industry, he said, can be understood through sobering numbers: More than 200 private officers are arrested annually for crimes ranging from simple assault to murder; 20,000 are injured on the job; and 118 died in the line of duty last year. “One of the reasons for this is a lack of training,” McCann said. “Every state regulates them differently, and there’s still 11 states that have no regulations whatsoever.”