Kenyan police may soon cooperate with private security companies in an effort to fight high levels of crime in the east African nation.
It was announced this week that a meeting will take place in the near future to discuss how private security firms could contribute to police efforts in Kenya.
The Police Reform Implementation Committee, acting on behalf of Kenya's Ministry of Provincial Administration and Internal Security, extended an invitation for private security firms to work out a framework of cooperation with Kenyan police.
While the companies are not expected to be granted any powers of enforcement, the parties will work to establish official channels of communications between the two groups, for the purposes of information sharing.
The police force is stretched thin across much of the country, especially in urban areas, and the partnership could lend them a badly needed hand.
Kenya has been plagued by high rates of crime over the past few decades. Its capital, Nairobi, is so notorious for theft that it is often referred to as "Nairobbery," and while petty theft is most common, car jackings and kidnappings have been a constant worry.
In 2009 over 100 kidnappings were reported in Nairobi alone, and 30 have already been reported in 2010. It is also estimated that three to five stolen cars are reported in Kenya's capital daily.
These growing security concerns have led many families and businesses to turn to private security firms for protection. While figures are unavailable, it is estimated that private security guards outnumber police in Nairobi by a large margin.
And because guards are concentrated around many high risk areas, they could provide information crucial to solving many crimes.
But the chairman of the Kenya Security Industry Association, Caxton Munyoki, says an apparent lack of trust between Kenya's police and private guards has prevented much cooperation in the past.
"There has been a very serious suspicion between the police and the private security industry. It is like they look at us like we are doing their job," Munyoki said. "They do not look at it as complementary. There must be a new awakening of working together towards reduction of insecurity in the country."
Munyoki indicated that private guards who report crimes are often held by police as suspects, which has deterred many others from lending their assistance.
The meeting will also address regulation of the private security industry. Among the priorities will be setting guidelines for the formation and operation of private security firms. The regulation is aimed at protecting the welfare of employees as well as the security of Kenya. While a date has not been set, the meeting is expected to take place next week.