Definition of ‘Crowdfunding’: The use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals to finance a new business venture. Crowdfunding makes use of the easy accessibility of vast networks of friends, family and colleagues through social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get the word out about a new business and attract investors. Crowdfunding has the potential to increase entrepreneurship by expanding the pool of investors from whom funds can be raised beyond the traditional circle of owners, relatives and venture capitalists.
In the United States, crowdfunding is restricted by regulations on who is allowed to fund a new business and how much they are allowed to contribute. Similar to the restrictions on hedge fund investing, these regulations are supposed to protect unsophisticated and/or non-wealthy investors from putting too much of their savings at risk. Because so many new businesses fail, their investors face a high risk of losing their principal.-Investopedia
One of the exciting things to develop last summer was the advent of crowdfunded security. It is a concept that I wanted to share here on the blog that is really cool and cutting edge. It is a new way of doing business and I wanted to introduce the concept. Who knows, maybe someone will take the ball and run with this.
So here is the concept–create a crowd funding website called Securityfunfr.com or similar, that is completely dedicated to helping countries, states, cities, towns, communities and even individuals in starting crowd funding campaigns for their security. The model is already out there with such places as Idiegogo, Kickstarter, or Crowdtilt.
The idea for this came from a Crowdtilt campaign that was done in Oakland, California by a community in need of security services. Their neighborhood was constantly dealing with criminals, and the police were stretched too thin because of budgetary constraints to deal with that crime. So a member of the neighborhood started a campaign to raise money to contract the services of a local security company.
What happened next is amazing. They were able to raise all of the money needed to fund their own security, and in a very short time. Folks from all over the country could contribute funds to this campaign–and they did.
Now what makes Securityfundr an interesting concept is that it would be a ‘security specific’ niche crowdfunding site. A place to go, to specifically raise funds for whatever security is required. I envision something that a small village in Somalia could take part in, or some town Idaho could get into, or what some female jogger that runs in Central Park, NY could tap into–all to raise money for their security.
You could also raise money to secure websites and protect against hackers. The cyber element of securityfundr could be big, just because the ferocity of attacks that can hack places like Target, could easily be turned on small mom and pop websites–and they do. But small businesses and individuals are limited in their ability to protect their websites, all by how much money they have. Enter crowdfunding and the potential of a site like securityfundr….
I would also create a portal for security companies to advertise their wares on the site. They could receive alerts through the website, for when a funding campaign is started within their area. A company could sign up, and get alerts for specific types of security work, within a certain distance. The website would have a highly secure and encrypted online interface and mobile interface. Each company would be voted on and rated by the public, kind of like what Yelp or Amazon does, all so folks can voice their opinions on the quality of companies and their services. Like I said before, the models are there, and all it takes is to make a snowmobile out of all of them for the purpose of Securityfundr.
Below I have posted all of the pertinent stories related to the crowdfunded security. If you know of others, by all means let me know and share them in the comments. As to the potential of such a concept? Who knows, maybe a crowdfunding campaign could be started to fund securityfundr? lol –Matt
Oakland Neighbors Crowdfunding Private Security
BY Sam Roudman
Friday, October 4 2013
Oakland California’s Rockridge neighborhood has generally been better known for its fresh pasta and pricey Craftsman homes than for brazen daylight robberies. But that changed last month when three men held up a line of drivers waiting at the Rockridge BART station to pick up passengers in order to use the carpool lane on their morning commute.
“The casual carpool line is sort of a sacred thing,” says Rockridge resident Steve, Kirsh, “they robbed 20 people and they kind of freaked out the community.”
What’s a violated yet technologically savvy community to do? In Rockridge, the answer has been to crowdfund private security services, with the aim of compensating for an understaffed police department in the city with the highest robbery rate in America. In the last few weeks three separate campaigns have been started on Crowdtilt in order to fund four months of private security patrols in three different section of Rockridge. Near $35,000 have been raised so far, and two of the three projects have raised enough funds to ensure they will move forward.
The campaigns illustrate the power of crowdfunding tools to propel civic action, but they also point to the potential of crowdfunding to increase urban inequality in the name of a civic virtue like neighborhood safety.
“Crowdfunding a solution for one neighborhood without working on the larger, underlying issues is concerning to me,” says internet scholar Ethan Zuckerman. Last year he wrote about the potential of civic crowdfunding in cash strapped cities to abet inequality and erode faith in government’s ability to provide public goods like police forces, or parks. In his piece he stated “Unless done very carefully, crowdfunding a city’s projects is likely to favor wealthy neighborhoods over poor ones.” In the case of Rockridge, where the median home price of late is almost a million dollars, it seems like the downside of Zuckerman’s prediction has come to pass. Still, he believes that there is potential for the program to benefit all of Oakland, assuming “hiring private security guards is part of a larger strategy to work with Oakland PD to increase funding for officers.” Right now, there’s no such strategy in place.
“We shouldn’t have to do this,” says Steven Kirsh, who is running the last of the three Rockridge campaigns, “but we need to do this.” He doesn’t see the Oakland Police Department suddenly getting more resources, so in order to protect his belongings, family and property value, the $82 per household doesn’t seem like much to ask, for 12 hours of patrolling five days a week. For a four month trial it will work out to less than a dollar a day.
Krish is also hoping that the relative cheapness of private security in Rockridge might opens the door to “educate other people if they’re not aware of this sort of model.”
Part of what has allowed these campaigns to gather steam are the mechanics of Crowdtilt, which in the words of spokesman Andy Lutz “makes it dead simple to pool funds for any purpose.” That could be beer money for a tailgate, funding for a mayoral campaign, or in Rockridge, a supplemental security force. Lutz sees the Rockridge campaigns not as a rejection of government, but as a community’s stopgap effort to protect itself.
“They know the government means the best, and will help when they can,” he says, “but in the meantime, they’re taking matters into their own hands.”
Other civic crowdfunding platforms might not give the citizens of Rockridge that chance. “We would not allow this project to be posted,” says Jordan Raynor, co-founder of Citizinvestor. “We believe that local government entities are best qualified to make decisions for the good of all citizens,” and so projects on his site require that funds be raised on the behalf of a local government agency.
It’s not only Rockridge residents taking security into their own hands in Oakland. An article last month in the San Francisco Chronicle detailed an increase in Oakland residents relying on private security. The article points out that Oakland, a city with near 400,000 residents, had 830 officers patrolling the city in 2009, while today that number is down to 615.
This is not to say that private security for a public neighborhood has been an easy sell for Kirsh.
“There’s an initial reaction of ‘Why do i have to pay a dime to do something the city should do?’ But,” he pauses, “welcome to America!”
Crowd Tilt Campaign here.
Who’s Patrolling the Patrols?
As more Oakland neighborhoods hire private security firms to watch over their streets, some are raising questions about oversight and accountability — especially when officers are armed.
By Sam Levin
October 16, 2013
Last week, an older East Oakland couple came home to find that their home had been ripped apart. The bed was knocked over, drawers were wide open, and expensive technology and jewelry with sentimental value were gone. Their back window was smashed and their small dog was terrified.
“They just turned the house upside down,” said Jose Dorado, chairman of the Maxwell Park Neighborhood Council, who visited the house, which is down the street from his home. The family called the cops, but the Oakland Police Department was not the only crime-fighting entity to get involved. Concerned residents made sure that First Alarm Security and Patrol was aware of the situation. First Alarm is one of a handful of private security companies with a growing presence in Oakland — part of a controversial trend that has received national attention in recent weeks. As the city’s police agency struggles to increase the size of its force and continues to devote its limited resources to areas of Oakland with the highest crime rates, some neighborhood groups have taken steps to pay for the added protection of private guards.
“We are hoping with more eyes — trained eyes — on the street, we’ll begin to start picking up patterns of the crime,” said Dorado, who helped organize more than two hundred Maxwell Park residents to pay for First Alarm’s presence in the neighborhood. “We begin to notice these strange cars and suspicious people … that are going around knocking on doors, driving by houses slowly.”
For just $15 a month — or 50 cents a day, as Dorado likes to say — residents get eight-hour patrols on a daily basis. Similar crowd-funded efforts are underway in the Oakmore and Upper Dimond, Rockridge, and Sequoyah Hills neighborhoods, plus elsewhere. The private patrol trend has faced a backlash that’s largely focused on class tensions — with headlines like Gawker’s “Scared Gentrifiers Crowdfunding Money for Their Own Private Cops” — though as the Express has noted, hiring these firms, from a financial standpoint, is cost-effective in areas with enough interested residents. (And it’s worth noting that some of the individuals coordinating these efforts are lifelong residents.)
An overlooked tension in the heated debate, however, centers on a separate controversial question that is all too familiar to Oakland: Is more policing the answer? In the city where unarmed Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a BART cop — and where violent protests erupted after the not-guilty verdict for the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin — advocates for police reform are raising concerns about the influx of private guards who, by some measures, face less scrutiny and oversight than police.
“Who are they accountable to? Who do they answer to?” asked Jackie Byers, executive director of the Black Organizing Project, an Oakland social justice group that has spoken out about disproportionate arrest rates for black youth. “Even within our public law enforcement agencies, we have a clear lack of accountability, transparency, and oversight. When we start privatizing these things, it becomes even more problematic.”
The fact that some of these guards have guns is especially alarming, she said. “Having a bunch of armed security officers paid for by neighborhood people who are coming from a place of fear — and who are carrying whatever racial and economic biases with them — should make everybody in Oakland afraid.”
In California, private patrol companies and their security guards are regulated by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services within the Department of Consumer Affairs. To receive licenses, guards must undergo background checks and complete a forty-hour training course and exam, administered by private patrol operators or certified facilities. Operators and managers have several additional requirements, and armed guards must have firearm permits obtained after a fourteen-hour training course. Russ Heimerich, spokesman for consumer affairs, explained that armed guards can only have firearms on them at work, at home, and on the way to and from work. Guards must file reports with the agency when they discharge their weapons, and cases involving injuries or fatalities will face police investigations. “Security guards are not police, and they are trained to observe and report,” he said. “They play a supplemental role.”
But like many bureaucratic licensing processes, “the regulations are not really enforced,” said Julie Al-Huneidi, president and CEO of EduGuard, a Sacramento-based company that offers online training classes for the private security field. “It’s just one of those industries that have never really come under the microscope.” She argued that consumers often have very little information about the companies — and the individual employees — they are bringing into their communities. Heimerich, however, said that checks and balances are in place such that it is unlikely for a working guard to be unlicensed. Regardless, the industry has grown: From 2008 to 2013, there has been a roughly 12 percent increase in the number of private patrol operator licenses in California.
Representatives of the private patrols moving into Oakland argue that they are in no way trying to replace or replicate the work of law enforcement and do not engage in dangerous confrontations. The goal, according to these companies and neighborhood subscribers, is to deter would-be criminals with the mere presence of guards.
“We really want to be a part of your community,” Teresa Huerta Larkin, chief administrative officer and director of legal affairs for First Alarm, told a crowd gathered last week at the monthly Maxwell Park neighborhood meeting. Her employees patrolling Oakland have “defensive weapons,” including chemical agents, batons, and Tasers, she explained to the Express. But no guns.
“What we bring to them is our experience in understanding how crime works,” said Larkin. “Criminals don’t like to be discovered. You make it difficult for them to be under the radar. … We have hardened the target.” Security patrol officers can play close attention to a home when residents are on vacation and can collect and disseminate real-time information to participating homeowners about ongoing criminal activity, she explained.
“We consider ourselves a support mechanism” for police, Larkin added. “We do not cross the line.”
The fact that First Alarm is not bringing firearms to the area was a plus for many residents when the Maxwell Park Neighborhood Council was selecting a company, said Dorado.
“To me, if you have an armed [guard], you are inviting a war zone,” said Tracy Tilin McKendell, a resident who helped bring unarmed guards to her Upper Dimond-Oakmore neighborhood. “We don’t want shootouts.”
Some of the officers of Oakland-based VMA Security Group, however, are armed. VMA has contracts with Sequoyah Hills residents and will soon launch a four-month trial period in Lower Rockridge. In the latter, VMA will not be armed, a very recent change in response to residents’ concerns. In the patrols that do have armed officers, their firearms are “primarily for self-protection,” said Vince Mackey, president and CEO of VMA who served as the director of security and was a bodyguard for former Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. “They are a defensive last resort. We have no intention of using our weapons as offensive weapons.”
He also doesn’t shy away from concerns surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin, noting that “the very unfortunate incident in Florida certainly makes a lot of people nervous.” But, he said, his officers go through intensive trainings that surpass the state requirements. He also said generally they do not follow suspects. VMA guards, however, may approach or question someone who is acting suspiciously — an individual peeking into mailboxes, for example — and in some cases will “trail” a suspect to get a license plate to pass onto police, he said. Both Mackey and Larkin emphasized that they recruit qualified employees and would never teach or condone any kind of racial profiling. In VMA’s history, Mackey added, there has only been one case of a guard discharging his weapon (at an Oakland nightclub, in which VMA was acting in self-defense and was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, he said).
In unarmed patrols, VMA guards will scale back some of their response tactics for more risky situations, Mackey said, adding that their presence can still be an effective deterrent. “Since it’s a group effort, we abide by their wishes,” he said, adding, “Weapons and guns still make people nervous.” Justin Horner, a former city council staffer who lives in Rockridge and helped spearhead one of the fundraising initiatives, said he doesn’t expect VMA to function as police, but emphasized that there is no compelling reason to not give private patrols a try. “This is something we can do. Let’s check it out.”
For its part, OPD emphasized that private security is not law enforcement.
“Private patrols — they’re a community decision,” said Paul Figueroa, interim assistant chief of police. “If they want assistance with a private company, that’s totally their decision and I respect their decision to do that. What I can tell you is that cops do make a difference.” He added, “There’s hope on the horizon. We’ve got more officers on the way.”
Guns for hire: Oak Forest residents raise more than $200,000 for private security force
By Tyler Rudick
Oak Forest residents raised more than $200,000 to hire S.E.A.L.S., a private security firm with contracts throughout the city.
Fed up with a recent rash of robberies, residents from the northwest Houston neighborhood of Oak Forest have joined forces to collect $216,000 for their own security detail.
The Leader reports that S.E.A.L.S. — an area firm that offers maritime security against pirates in international waters — will have three armed officers patrolling Oak Forest streets for a year starting in November. The private company already provides similar services for 45 other local communities, including Sharpstown.
Nearly 1,000 homeowners funded the effort along with corporate sponsors like Oakington Realty and Perry Homes.
Nearly 1,000 homeowners funded the effort along with corporate sponsors like Oakington Realty, which donated $2,000 to the cause. Building company Perry Homes, which has replaced at least 30 of neighborhood’s original bungalows with new high-end construction, chipped in a full $10,000.
While S.E.A.L.S. will protect the entire neighborhood, those who paid the company’s $250 annual fee will receive extra benefits, such as vacation check-ups and safety escorts.
An ongoing spate of crime — including an incident in which a World War II veteran had the inside of his home vandalized — has Oak Forest residents on edge for more than a year. In June, the quiet neighborhood made national headlines for participating in a controversial program that offers free shotguns and training to concerned citizens.
For area homeowner Tracy Brandon, who lost $20,000 in stolen property this spring, the comfort from having additional protection from S.E.A.L.S. is well worth the fee.
“I called 911 twice, it took about 45 minutes for H.P.D. to get there,” she tells KHOU Ch. 11. “It’s scary. We didn’t come home for three days and it was really hard to explain to her what happened.”