Responsibility for security and safety in transition
Do citizens have a role in the security and safety of our society?
The government is not solely responsible for safety and security. Citizens and businesses also have their own responsibilities. The government has claimed a monopoly on safety and security for a long time. In view of the extent of the safety and security problems and the necessary measures to be taken, it has become clear that others can have their own specific responsibilities. Security and safety is the broad responsibility of all participants in a modern society.
So far there are few differences of opinion. Almost everyone is convinced that this broad responsibility exists. There is far less harmony about the extent of the responsibility of citizens and businesses. What should the government do and what should citizens and businesses do? The answer to this question is subject to intense disagreement. ´We all have a responsibility` is the main principle in the current security and safety debate. Partly based on the need for cuts, the government is trying to shift responsibility to private parties and citizens. But how often this occurs and what remains with the government is not entirely clear. Forms of public-private cooperation in this area are structurally problematic. Shifting the responsibility to citizens and businesses can lead to politically undesirable forms of vigilantism.
Citizens and businesses can do a lot to prevent insecurity and unsafe situations. Not only by technical means, but also by being more aware of what is going on in their environment. Few realize the everyday relevance of the information available to them concerning safety and security. Awareness in itself is necessary but not sufficient. Citizens - and companies – should have the opportunity to pass on relevant information on safety and security to an authority which has a formal responsibility for safety and security. The government holds and retains responsibility for security and safety if the use of powers intervenes with constitutional rights. In that case, government intervention is necessary. In my opinion, in a democratic state this cannot be transferred to private organizations or citizens.
In the Netherlands there is relatively little discussion and debate about the possibilities for the privatization of security. A substantial private security market exists, but this has not occurred because of privatization, but because of the emergence of new functions and tasks and by the attitude of the Dutch government which allows private security organizations to become part of the security market. While the private security market was expanding, the number of public security organizations also grew. The total security market in the Netherlands has simply got bigger. It is undeniable that the private security market is currently growing faster than the public safety market. The state traditionally has an important role in security and safety in the Netherlands. Few will see privatization as an attractive alternative. It would, however, be worthwhile examining the experiences of other countries and whether such major forms of security privatization would be possible in the Netherlands