As budget-strapped police forces focus more on responding to crime rather than preventing it, private detectives and security firms are often taking on the roles that police once did, investigating robberies, checking out alibis, looking into threats, reports the Los Angeles Times. Private detectives are just one piece of the private sector security and policing services that people are increasingly turning to as they worry about crime. The U.S. private security industry is expected to grow 6.3 percent per year to $19.9 billion by 2016, says the security research group Freedonia Group Inc.
In California, where many cash-strapped cities cut police budgets during the recession, residents are turning to detectives, security firms and even the Internet. After police cuts in Oakland, resident Dabney Lawless encouraged 400 neighbors to sign up on a website so they could send alerts to one another when they noticed suspicious people around; she also pays extra to an alarm company to drive through the neighborhood. "Wealthy neighborhoods are buying themselves more police protection than poor neighborhoods," said Samuel Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the author of 13 books on policing.