Private security and the policing of quasi-public space

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been a growing recognition amongst academics that the provision of policing in industrialised countries is becoming increasingly ‘pluralised’ or ‘fragmented’. The most significant manifestation of this has been research illustrating the growing role of private security in policing ‘mass private property’ including environments such as shopping malls, airports, leisure facilities, etc. Such locations are generally private although freely open to the public and legally defined as ‘quasi-public’ or ‘hybrid’ space. The legal status—which is increasingly being challenged in the courts—gives private security staff as agents of the property owner an impressive range of rights, which provide the basis for legal tools. Despite the growing literature on private policing and the significant roles undertaken by private security officers in such space there has been relatively little empirical research in this field. This paper provides some preliminary findings on the dynamics of the policing of ‘hybrid space’ based upon an empirical study of a leisure and retail complex in England, where structured interviews with 29 security officers, 4 semi-structured interviews with other key staff, 50+hours of observation, along with the analysis of relevant documents were pursued. The paper will explore the security officer's knowledge of their legal powers, the extent to which they make use of them and the varying strategies they use to achieve their desired outcomes. The paper will also include a review of the typical activities of a security officer in such a location. The extensive verbal and physical abuse that security officers experience from the public will also be highlighted in the paper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-237
JournalThe International Journal of the Sociology of Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003


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