UNEXPECTEDLY! Demand for private security is booming in Minneapolis.

In June 2020, the Minneapolis city council famously vowed to defund the police department. Though their plans fell through, the fully funded MPD is nonetheless struggling. More than 250 officers have resigned or retired since then. Earlier this year, the Minneapolis supreme court ruled that the city has a duty to staff the MPD with a minimum of 731 sworn officers, but the department is at least 100 officers short of that target. Meantime, crime has spiked, with 96 homicides in 2021—doubling the number in 2019 and tying a 1995 record.

Private security has stepped into the breach. The number of licenses approved for new private providers rose from 14 in 2019 to 27 in 2021, according to data from Minnesota’s Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services. Demand is exploding as businesses increasingly opt for private guards over off-duty cops.

Christopher Forest started his private security firm, Unparalleled Security, after the rioting of 2020. Today, he has 175 employees. Forest did not set out to start a private security firm, having previously worked as CEO of Minnesota’s largest valet-parking company. But after June 2020, his clients began approaching him with requests for security guards. These clients had once hired off-duty police officers for their security needs, but the MPD’s image after the George Floyd killing made that more difficult.

“I think it just had to do with the temperature in the room when you have a police officer in a venue versus an unarmed security guard,” Forest says.

Michael MacDonald, who runs a smaller private security firm called JomsVikings Protection and Security, agrees. “Stores do not want cops out in front because of the negative attention it can bring to their facilities,” says MacDonald. His license to operate was issued July 31, 2020. Today, he has 18 full-time and ten part-time employees.

High crime means that new clients, such as movie theaters, are entering the market for private security, says Richard Hodson, the chairman of Minnesota’s Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services. Hodson says he knows of a retired police officer who recently got a license to run his own private security firm but has had to turn down contracts because he cannot hire enough guards to staff them. Demand exceeds supply.

Minneapolis morphed into Detroit so slowly quickly, I hardly even noticed: