Who Likes Cops? Survey Claims Police-for-Hire More Popular than SFPD

Categories: Business, Crime

A survey conducted by a San Jose State professor indicates that many customers of the Patrol Special Police, a quasi-public security service whose officers have been walking the streets of San Francisco since the days of the Gold Rush, prefer the specials to their counterparts in the San Francisco Police Department.

Who shall serve and protect?

The survey, conducted by economics professor Edward Stringham, reveals that many who hire the Specials do so because of what they perceive as a slow response time and lack of emphasis on community policing from the SFPD. "The main thing that I learned from this that was really a common theme is that the SFPD does not have the time or the resources to respond in a quick way to a lot of concerns," Stringham said in a telephone interview from Hartford, Conn., where he is currently a visiting professor at Trinity College.

Stringham said that he sent a printed questionnaire to 146 customers of the Patrol Specials, and received 53 responses. "I just wanted to get an idea of why people would spend more money on a Patrol Special Police when they could rely on the government police for free," he said. Those who responded praised the specials for their familiarity with specific neighborhoods and overall responsiveness to concerns about specific types of crimes. Stringham said he plans to incorporate the survey results in an academic paper on how the specials operate in San Francisco.

These results should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt: Stringham acknowledges that the Patrol Special Police provided "a few thousand dollars" in funding to support his research, and the professor is past president of the Association of Private Enterprise Education, which advances research in support of various free-market ideas. Still, the study could provide some ammunition for the Specials in their ongoing turf war with the SFPD over private security details.

Photo   |   Johan.V.

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