The Mounties are Challenged

In Canada, near Winnipeg, Manitoba, a number of communites have hired a private company, Prairie Bylaw Enforcement Services to enforce local bylaws. Here is more from the July 20th Winnipeg Free Press (subs. required).

The turf war between Mounties and Prairie Bylaw Enforcement Services has
been brewing for several months as more municipalities hire PBES to
enforce local bylaws, like noise complaints, and go after speeders and
red light runners….

PBES officers are armed with Tasers that administer a quick, sharp
electronic jolt to get suspects to comply, and folding batons, but by
law are restricted to only enforcing the Highway Traffic Act and local
bylaws.

By contracting PBES, municipalities get a bigger share of fine revenue
than if RCMP issued a ticket. As well, some municipalities believe they
need PBES during the busy summer months because Mounties are spread too
thin patrolling large detachment areas.

Overall, I applaud, but contracting out is not the same as privatization. When a service is privatized, government no longer plays any role in the supply or demand for the service. With contracting out the government remains the demander so we get improved technical efficiency but perhaps for entirely the wrong goods. Do we want efficient tax farming or efficient prison camps?

Bruce Benson discusses these issues further in a book I edited on private prisons called, Changing the Guard. For more on the history of truly private policing see the eye-opening chapter on policing in 19th century England by historian Stephen Davies in The Voluntary City.

Thanks to Eric Crampton for the pointer.

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