There is a beautiful new playground near our house. The local government spent like a million dollars renovating this park. It has gorgeous open space, good lighting even after dark, a sandbox, toddler-friendly playground equipment, a rubber surface, and an armed guard. Yes, you read that right...private, armed security.
Now, I don't live in the safest place on the planet. Latin American countries have well known crime issues, and armed guards are pretty much the norm here. There is literally an army of private security guards working throughout this city, in the lobbies of upscale apartment buildings, in shops, in restaurants, in schools, in offices...everywhere. You can't walk a block without seeing private, armed security. I don't even think much about it any more when I see a guy with a machine gun outside a shop.
But, the playground gave me pause. I mean, we play on plenty of playgrounds that have no security. Are we in danger when we do? Before they upgraded this playground, there was no security. Did it become more dangerous? Do they know something I don't? Or, is the security there to protect their investment, rather than the people? And what happens if there is a security threat? Will the officer pull his weapon? Will he shoot? And if he does, is he even likely to hit his target, or will it be a child?
In the end, I'm not sure how I should feel. Should I feel MORE safe, because there is armed security on the playground in this very security conscious place? Or should I feel LESS secure, because there is now a greater chance that my child will accidentally get shot? Because the reality is that there are often many dozens of children playing on the playground. If an armed intruder decides to attack, it's just not likely that the guard will take out just the attacker.
As an American, this seems all a bit absurd. But then, it also seems a bit like where we are headed.
How would you feel about armed guards at your playground? Would you still visit (imagine that it's the best playground around)?