Private Security in Reykjavik, Iceland2013-08-28T16:42:50-04:00

Dean Van Bibber
December 1, 2000
Reprint Protection Officer News Winter 1999

One of the last European countries to be settled, Iceland is an island of 40,000 square miles with a population of 275,000. Glacier, lava fields, lakes and rivers make up 40% of Iceland's surface. Iceland's land mass can be compared to the size of the state of Kentucky. Over 40% of Iceland's citizens reside in the capital city of Reykjavik; the remaining citizens living in other coastal towns.

Marine products account for 70% of Iceland's total exports. The country's unemployment rate is 2.8% for 1998, with an inflation rate, according to the May 31, 1999, issue of Barron's Market Weekly, of 1.7%. According to this same Barron's report, the country's highly educated labor force, with many workers highly fluent in English, increases opportunities in international trade and investments.

Iceland is a parliamentary republic, with the president and the parliament exercising the legislative power. A secret public ballot is held every four years to elect the president and the parliament members. The nation's highest positions of administrative authority are the Ministers of Government and the Ministry of Justice, one of whose responsibilities is governing the National Police Force.

Similar to any large city, the capitol city of Reykjavik has its own unique crime problems. According to crime expert Dr. Helgi Gunnlavgsson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Iceland, the most pervasive crime problem in Iceland is substance abuse. Since the beer ban was lifted ten years ago, the Reykjavik police have been very busy controlling and patrolling drinking behavior, especially for the young weekend binge drinkers. This criminal behavior is the major contributor to Iceland's having a higher ratio of DUI arrests than the United States; approximately 2,000 citizens are arrested each year for drinking and driving offenses.

Reykjavik's Office of the Police Chief Annual Report 1997 indicates the following crimes statistics:

Crimes Reported Arrest Rates*
Assaults 588 Assaults 171
Burglary 1767 Burglary 175
Theft 3118 Theft 182
Car Theft 236 Car Theft 023

*Of special note is that 1359 people were arrested for public intoxication, stemming largely from binge drinking on weekends.

The country of Iceland is protected by a National Police force that is supervised by a National Commissioner, who answers to the Ministry of Justice. There are twenty-six police districts and a total of 747 sworn personnel; 128 of these are part-time officers.

The capitol of Reykjavik has over 200 sworn law enforcement officers assigned to the following divisions: patrol; crime prevention and research; investigation (subdivided into burglary/theft/ robbery, narcotics, violence, and sex crimes units); traffic accidents; and information and surveillance units.

As in any society, the city of Reykjavik demands added protection that the National Police force cannot provide. So filling in the gap for added protection is the country's largest contractual security company, Securitas. Securitas, which is located in Reykjavik, has over 100 employees involved in its security service and offers the following services:

 

  • Mobile patrol with uniformed officers with over 140 accounts;
  • Cash transport with specialized cash transport bags and specially equipped vans;
  • Stationary uniformed guard service for the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik;
  • Central 112 dispatch center (equivalent to our 911 system), combining forces of both government and Securitas to provide fire, ambulance dispatch, and burglar, medical and fire alarm monitoring of over 3,000 alarm systems;
  • Uniformed response unit that responds to burglar, fire, and medical alarms;
  • Stationary uniformed guard service for the mall, banks, and other accounts.

Contractual security services are governed and certified by the Minister of Justice. According to regulations, the CEOs of such service agencies must have a clean criminal record and be at least 25 years of age. A security guard employed by such a service must be at least 18 years of age, trustworthy, and maintain a clean criminal record; all such records are reviewed every two years.

There is no government mandated minimum training for a security officer, but Securitas does provide 16 hours of basic training for the new officer covering basic guard duties, first aid, and fire fighting. Additionally, a new security officer is required to go through 48 hours of work experience under the supervision of a field training officer. Also, every officer receives four hours of technical training concerning a variety of alarm systems on a monthly basis.

It is obvious that Iceland has the same societal and commercial demand for contractual private security, and Securitas is the front runner in this country's security industry.

About the author
Dean Van Bibber holds a BA degree from Mansfield State and a MS in Criminal Justice from Villanova University. Van Bibber is a certified police instructor in the states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia and has nine years of experience in local law enforcement as a patrol, sergeant, and Chief of Police. He is a member of both ASIS and IFPO. In addition to police work, he has four years of experience in corporate security management. He has also taught at the college and university level for over fourteen years and has been an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Fairmont State College for the past five years. While studying the National Police in Reykjavik, Iceland, in May 1999, he met and was hired by Securitas management to serve as a consultant and instruct security seminars for their employees in July 1999.