The statistics published by Colombia’s National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science and the National Police attest to the country’s high crime rate. Between July and December of 2019, more than 11,000 homicides and 158,000 thefts were recorded by the two agencies respectively. The high number of offences make private security firms essential for protecting people, well-known locations, businesses and more.
According to figures from Colombia’s Superintendence of Surveillance and Private Security, there are currently 856 private security firms in the country. Companies involved in the industry generate more than 6.7 billion dollars and employ more than 28,000 bodyguards and 297,000 security guards who are responsible for protecting the property or people assigned to them.
The industry’s financial footprint represents 1.6% of Colombia’s GDP and creates 240,000 directly related and 216,000 indirectly related jobs.
Personnel working in the sector include 28,658 bodyguards – of whom 28,190 are male, and 468 are female, 297,133 security guards – of whom 261,046 are male, and 36,087 are female, and lastly 4,456 dog guards – of whom 4,221 are male and 235 are female.
In 2019, there were 1,796 vehicles authorised for private security use. The vehicles are specially adapted to provide the level of protection required by the industry and firms must apply for a permit authorising their usage. That authorisation has various prerequisites, including proving that the lives of the people who use the vehicle are at risk.
International ballistic standards for armoured cars stipulate various levels of vehicle protection. Levels 1, 2 and 3 protect vehicles from the short-range weapons that, according to the National Police, are often used by common criminals.
Some security experts argue that the sector’s increased size is a result of the government’s failure to sufficiently protect its citizens, leaving a sizeable gap for the growth of private-sector security firms.
That said, Colombia does invest heavily in public sector security. The country spends more of its budget on public safety than any of its neighbours.