Downtown Detroit: private security in a public space

May 20, 2015

According to Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer, there are now 500 security cameras operated by private security companies in the downtown Detroit area.
Credit user Tom Page / flickr

As Dan Gilbert keeps buying buildings in downtown Detroit – more than 70, now – we're seeing the prospect of new businesses, new tenants, and new people downtown.

Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer wonders what this means in terms of private security and public space.

Her column this week, “Watching Dan Gilbert’s Watchmen,” follows another column from a couple of months ago, and takes a look at the state of private security forces in the downtown Detroit area.

Her concern lies in the fundamental difference between private security agencies and public police agencies.

“The difference here is that private security doesn’t have to be accountable to anyone except the people who are paying it,” Kaffer says.

She also tells us that the physical reach or jurisdiction enjoyed by private security under the employ of businesses like Quicken Loans/Rock Ventures means that private security forces are patrolling public spaces.

Kaffer commends those like Gilbert for buying buildings in Detroit, for moving companies into them, for bringing workers into the area, and for participating in the Live Midtown and Live Downtown programs.

"They're doing a lot of stuff to ... bring people into downtown Detroit, and I think that's fantastic. And I also believe they feel a responsibility to those people. They brought these workers downtown, and they want to keep them safe," Kaffer says. “As I have said in every column I’ve written, I’m not saying they shouldn’t be doing it. I’m saying that I want to talk about what they’re doing, and I want there to be some transparency and accountability.”