Consumer Drivers of Industry Growth and Household Loyalty to Private Security Firms in Jamaica

Publication Date01 February 2020
AuthorJoakim Berndtsson,Suzette A. Haughton,Trevor A. Smith
Date01 February 2020
/tmp/tmp-17fXPqCfAPHNfR/input 890204CCJXXX10.1177/1043986219890204Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeHaughton et al.
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2020, Vol. 36(1) 110 –127
Consumer Drivers of
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
Industry Growth and
DOI: 10.1177/1043986219890204
Household Loyalty to
Private Security
Firms in Jamaica
Suzette A. Haughton1, Trevor A. Smith1,
and Joakim Berndtsson2
Jamaica is the fourth most murderous country in the world with more than 100
murders per 100,000 population. Private security firms have grown to record
levels and have outnumbered the police and military combined, thus making private
security an extremely important part of the security landscape in the country. This
article seeks to explain household loyalty to private security providers and the
rapid growth of private policing and protection in the country. Prior research has
rarely addressed this issue, particularly in a developing world context. Utilizing a
final sample of 108 private security customers in Jamaica and partial least squares
structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) for data analysis, the study finds that good
relationships between customers and security providers and the service quality
offered by private security firms are key drivers of household loyalty. In addition,
lack of confidence in the police, service quality offered, and the high levels of
“indiscipline” in the Jamaican society are causal to the increased growth in the
private security industry.
private security, Jamaica, consumer loyalty, industry growth
1The University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica
2University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Corresponding Author:
Suzette A. Haughton, The University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.

Haughton et al.
Private security companies (PSCs) and guards have become ubiquitous and increas-
ingly permanent fixtures of most societies (Abrahamsen & Williams, 2011). In many
countries, private security guards outnumber the police and sometimes even the
military. In the United States, more than 1 million people work as security guards
(U.S. Department of Labor, 2017). By comparison, the European Union (EU) mar-
ket is home to 54,000 security companies, employing around 1.4 million, whereas in
India alone there are more than 7 million guards (Eurostat, 2015; Gooptu, 2013).
The trend toward security privatization or outsourcing is global, cuts across “north–
south” and “peace–war” divides, and includes services and technologies ranging
from IT/cyber security, alarms, guarding homes, businesses and policing public
spaces, via risk assessments, criminal investigations, and intelligence gathering, to
armed close protection and security in conflict areas (Abrahamsen & Leander, 2016;
Berndtsson & Kinsey, 2016).
Research on this topic—particularly in the field of international relations—has
often centered on dramatic and controversial representations of this global trend, such
as armed contractors in conflict zones. However, and as Abrahamsen and Williams
(2011) remind us,
the growth and impact of private security extend far beyond spectacular activities of
corporate soldiers and the increased involvement of private companies in warfare and
military affairs. In almost every society across the globe, private security has become a
pervasive part of everyday life. (p. 1)
Certainly, private security and private policing have attracted the attention of scholars
in criminology and sociology for some time (e.g., Button, 2007; Loader, 1999). In this
research, focus has often been placed on the impact of security privatization on pub-
lic–private divisions of labor and authority, as well as on the transformation of polic-
ing and security governance more broadly.
To explain the global growth of security privatization, we need to consider several
factors and key changes. As Abrahamsen and Leander (2016) point out, systemic fac-
tors such as the end of the Cold War, the acceleration of privatization trends, the atten-
dant downsizing of public sectors, and the widespread implementation of neoliberal
forms of governance are important. In addition, we should include the rise of what
Beck (1992) has termed the “risk society,” where individuals, states, and companies
are increasingly preoccupied with calculating, mitigating, and preventing risks and
insecurity. In this context, and when state-based security provision is inadequate, PSCs
provide services and technologies to those who can afford them. Finally, there are
contextual factors that help explain the reasons for, and the consequences of, security
privatization and “security consumption” (Loader, 1999, p. 374) in particular cases.
This article addresses the following question: What are the key drivers of industry
growth and household loyalty to private security firms in Jamaica? This is in response
to the call for further research on private policing (in small countries) as the findings

Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 36(1)
from the Anglo-centric research in this area may not be generalizable to small states
(Van Stokkom & Terpstra, 2018).
Private Security in Jamaica
The private security industry in Jamaica has grown significantly in the past decade.
According to the Private Security Regulation Authority (PSRA, 2014–2015) in
Jamaica, the public body tasked with licensing and oversight of the industry, there
were 211 PSCs registered in the country in 2005 to 2006, employing 12,883 guards.
By 2017, these numbers had increased to 317 companies, employing 22,642 guards.
Of the guards, 4,481 perform armed duties (Economic and Social Survey Jamaica,
2018). Among the larger companies are G4S, King Alarm, Guardsman, Marksman,
Hawkeye, SecuriPro, and Sentry Force Security, though not all companies appear to be
registered with the PSRA (see, for example, Jaffe, 2015). These companies typically
offer services such as static protection or patrols, security escort services, and audits,
but also investigative and armed response services. In Jamaica, the private security
industry outnumbers the police and the military combined.
Prior Research on Private Security and the Consumer
Studies have indicated that the growth of private security in Jamaica is partly a result
of high levels of violent crime and homicides but also of a lack of trust in the police
(and the military) to provide basic protection (Jaffe, 2012, 2015). Previous studies
have offered some insight into why consumers turn to PSCs. One of these insights is
that the industry offers “some semblance of control over an otherwise unpredictable
and troubling future” (Loader, 1999, p. 381). Thus, security consumption offers indi-
viduals (or companies, or communities) a way to reduce risks of harm and create the
feeling of security in the face of presumed danger (Loader, 1999). Second, the appeal
of private security is also linked to the ability of (some) people to provide “better”
security for themselves or their community in comparison with those who rely on
(what might be seen as an) inadequate, corrupt, or unresponsive public police
(Loader, 1999, p. 383). Third, Loader (1999) points to private security consumption
as a way to sidestep societal or democratic efforts by government to create common
forms of protection.
In a similar fashion, Goold et al. (2010) point to the need to focus on the (sociology
of) consumption of security and not merely at those who promote, produce, and sell
the goods and services that make up the market. They develop a model for understand-
ing modes of security consumption. At the level of the individual, consumption is an
expression of how, under neoliberal conditions, people take more responsibility for
their security in the face of fear or lack of faith in the state. The very act of “shopping
for security” is also a source of reassurance, comfort, and autonomous agency that is
partly independent of the actual effect of consumption for one’s security situation
(Goold et al., 2010, p. 10).

Haughton et al.
Despite prior studies on private security, no systematic analysis has been under-
taken empirically linking private security growth and household loyalty, nor does the
literature provide adequate coverage on private security markets and consumption
practices (Mulone, 2013). Moreover, private policing “cannot be based on the tacit
assumption that central concepts such as public good have universal relevance” (Van
Stokkom & Terpstra, 2018, p. 115). Utilizing theories on the growth of the firm, this
article addresses this gap by focusing on Jamaica—a developing country with the
fourth highest murder rate worldwide (Blackford, 2017).
Theoretical Foundation
Efficient firms grow by gradually chipping away at the market share of firms that are
less technologically savvy and hence less efficient (Downie, 1958). Downie calls the
process of weakening another firm’s market share as the “transfer mechanism.” This
model of the growth of the firm noted that there are two ways to grow a firm. First, a
firm can grow through increasing its capacity and, second, through expanding its cus-
tomer base. However, to expand capacity increased finances must be garnered. In
Downie’s model, the growth process of the firm is Janus faced. On one hand, the
growth of capacity varies positively with...

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