The horrific increase in mass shootings in American communities and schools, along with bombings, terroristic threats, border issues and soaring criminal activity, have resulted in billions of dollars being spent nationwide on increased safety efforts. The spending is astronomical and there is no slowdown in sight. It consumes every jurisdiction of government. Public safety is now a top priority in every governmental jurisdiction nationwide. As a result, security has become a multi-billion-dollar industry that will continue to grow.
Mounting an aggressive effort to quell the increase in violence and death, government officials are aggressively launching new initiatives. Public schools, charter schools and private schools are adding fencing, security cameras, emergency communications systems, scanners and intrusion detection systems. Cities are outfitting police officers with body cameras, drones, in-vehicle computer terminals and dashboard cameras. Additional dollars to address public safety are being authorized for new or expanded jails, police and fire stations. Universities are using facial recognition software, enhanced campus communication systems, cameras and intrusion detection.
Public universities, hospitals, government buildings, community colleges, sports facilities and office buildings are all benefitting from upgrades in security. Millions of dollars are now allocated for safety protection and more is coming soon.
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that during the 1999-2000 school year, only 19 percent of the nation’s campuses were equipped with security cameras. By the 2015-2016 school year, more than 81 percent had security cameras. Two years later, it’s hard to find a school anywhere without security cameras.
Government officials are experiencing very little taxpayer pushback when it comes to spending for public safety. In Springfield, Missouri, city leaders have developed a $168 million bond package that includes funding for enhanced security at entrances at 31 school buildings. In the St. Tammany public school district in Louisiana, officials have prepared a $175 million bond packages with $14 million allocated for security projects. The school district plans to spend $12 million for intrusion detection that will include door controls, cameras and lock systems at entry points and $2 million for indoor cameras.
The rush to provide enhanced protection has also created high demand for construction services. Thousands of public safety buildings such as jails, police stations and fire department buildings are old and in disrepair. Most have been starved for maintenance and are no longer efficient. The new construction will lead to increased spending for technology, equipment, engineering, furniture and more.
A successful $181 million bond issue in Philadelphia has appropriated $97.7 million for safety upgrades to city buildings, including police and fire stations. In Texas, two cities are making plans to construct new public safety buildings – a public safety complex in Jacksonville and a new police facility in Kyle. The Jacksonville facility will replace the city’s current Central Fire Station and Police Station. A request for qualifications has been issued for programming and preliminary design. In Kyle, a study is underway to determine police department needs. That assessment could result in recommendations for a new facility with a price tag of between $18 million and $25 million.
A county jail expansion is on tap in Pasco County, Florida, where voters said yes in November to a $185 million bond referendum that included $128 million for the jail facility. Another $57 million will be used for construction of four new fire stations and upgrades to five other stations.
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an investment of $291 million to improve community infrastructure and essential services in rural areas of the U.S. The Leicester, North Carolina, Volunteer Fire Department was granted $5.85 million to build a new four-bay fire station. Another grant of $8.5 million was awarded to the city of Williston, North Dakota, part of which will be used to build a new fire station. Residents of West Wendover, Nevada, will purchase land and build a new fire station by using funds from a grant of more than $8.9 million. The facility will include space for vehicles, a training room, office space and sleeping quarters for fire department personnel.
A new Division Six headquarters in Salem for the Virginia State Police is in the planning stages. It should be under construction by 2020. The facility will provide space for 100 staff members and include administrative, multipurpose and vehicle storage buildings and a communications tower.
Two new $5 million fire stations will soon be in the design stage in Omaha, Nebraska, as part of a voter-approved $227.5 million bond vote. Miami Beach voters’ November authorization for issuance of general obligation bonds allocates $72 million for public safety improvements, including replacement of two fire stations and the purchase of a new public safety radio system.
As attention turns to improving public safety, contractors in numerous industry sectors will be in high demand. Funding will not be a problem – finding the best private-sector partner will be more difficult for public officials.