A Brief But Interesting History Of Private Security As We Know It

You might be forgiven for thinking that private security services are a 20th century invention but then you’d be wrong. Security guards or security personnel stretch way back and I mean way back!

Did you know for instance that the word ‘security’ actually comes from the Latin ‘Se Cura’ or ‘free from care’? Nope! Neither did I, but the Roman emperors almost certainly used security guards as personal protectors, thus enabling them to do what Roman emperors used to do best in relative safety – That is unless you were Julius Caesar of course! Et Tu, Brute – and all that!

But going even further back in time to the 5th Century BC and ancient Greece –a group of some 300 Scythian slaves were used by local magistrates to keep law and order and make arrests when the need arose. They were known as the Politeia meaning ‘an authority or force’ and that’s where we get the word ‘police’ from.

During the later medieval period when everyone wasn’t fighting everyone, if you were rich enough you could hire private security guards to protect your land and family. These particular guards were often made up of seasoned and battle-hardened soldiers who were now unemployed because…yep you guessed it…. they had no one to fight!

By the turn of the 18th century, more and more people crowded into the cities to find work and as a result, the already over-crowded streets were rife with crime, violence, and illegal activity. As such tax and revenues were raised to pay private security companies to patrol cities on the lookout for anything suspicious. The problem was that more often than not, they’d be open to turning a blind eye if their palms were crossed with any denomination of silver. Corrupt officials – who’d have thought it!

It wasn’t until 100 or so years later in 1829 that Sir Robert Peel set up the world’s first centrally organised police force. Known as the Metropolitan Police Services in London, it formed the basis of what is now the Metropolitan police. For this reason, British police officers are still affectionately known as ‘Bobbies‘ in his honour.

By 1900 most countries had a recognised centrally controlled police force and in most cases there became clear stipulations of what they could and couldn’t do. Now company owners who had valuable assets to protect began to hire private security guards to keep a watchful eye on their factories. A prime example was one Henry Ford who used private security companies right through the first World War and into the Great Depression to protect his factory from large scale looting.

Moving into the 1950’s and 60’s, the cold war was raging and espionage was at its height. For this reason, private security companies were needed to patrol pretty much anything that was thought to be of use to our communist counterparts, and this was really the birthplace of large scale private security companies.

Nowadays of course, you’re much more likely to see private security personnel keeping a watchful eye at a music festival rather than guarding some nuclear reactor, but keeping people, assets and objects ‘secure’ or ‘free from care’ is still the name of the game, even after all these centuries.

So there you have it… a brief but (hopefully) interesting history of the private security guard…

If you need to talk to a modern-day security company then come and talk to MA Security on 1300 020 406 or visit our website to see just how we can help

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