Policing by another name and entity: BIAs, delegation, and public and private technologies


  • Debra Mackinnon University of Calgary


Cities and the private sector have rolled out a range of market and tech-based “solutions” to replace and augment forms of urban governance, policing and service delivery. Referred to as new public management or entrepreneurial urbanism, Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) and their evolving practices, exemplify the confluence of these variegated corporate models. Fixtures on urban landscape, BIAs and their membership have become “frontline workers” left to navigate systemic urban problems such as affordable housing, informal settlements, cuts to social services, and more recently the opioid crisis. Not in the business of solving these problems – it’s not their job and they can’t – BIAs have focused on the performance of “clean and safe” areas for consumption. To carry out this policing and maintenance work, across North America and Europe BIAs are increasingly adopting applications and platforms in order to surveil, account for, and report objects, places and people in their areas. This short article interrogates the intersections of policing, private security, and mobile 311 applications.