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Josef Korbel School of International StudiesSié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security & Diplomacy

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Private Security Events Database

ThePrivate Security Events Database provides information on events related to private military and security companies in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia from 1990-2012, covering over 1200 events. It collects information on the services private military and security companies (PMSCs) provide, the clients they work for, and the consequences of their actions. An updated version extending the data to 2016 will be released later in 2019.

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Studies of private security have primarily focused on broad overviews of the industry, individual case studies, and case comparisons. In the last ten years there have been several data projects looking at contracts between private security providers and clients in particular regions, states, or types of states.

The PSED is the first events-based data on PMSCs. It attends to reports of what PMSCs did, in whose service, to whom, in what context, and with what specific consequences. It also has a broader scope than other data thus far, covering three regions over a longer period of time (1990 to 2012). It gathers detail on a wide array of commercial security providers including unnamed companies, their clients, and the consequences of their actions, including specific deaths and injuries as well as allegations of human rights abuse.


We structure the data on PMSCs to allow cross-referencing of PMSC events with events in the Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD) and other more aggregated data on conflict. We determine events first by keyword searches in Lexis-Nexis searches for PMSC involvement in particular geographical space, and second by event type: demonstration, riot, strike, violence, routine work, crime, and plot. Each of these categories has modifier codes that further elaborate on the types; for example, violence could be anti-government, extra-government, or intra-government, while crime could be by or against the PMSC.

For each event, we then collect information specific to the incident. This variable is based on the US Department of Defense's data collection strategy for PMSC activity in areas of named US contingencies, and indicates whether the event was associated with casualties, weapons discharge, nonlethal countermeasures, or none of the above.

Other pieces of information we collect include the PMSC name and/or nationality; the nationality of PMSC employees; the type of service the PMSC was performing (site security, operational support, advice and training, logistical support, and intelligence services); the client the PMSC was working for; the number of deaths or injuries associated with the event, and the type of victim (civilian, PMSC, police, military, criminal, rebel, politician) and perpetrator (PMSC, police, military, criminal, rebel, political organization, civilian); any human rights abuse allegations and their type (physical integrity, health, environment, labor, or development); any allegations that the PMSC lapsed in its duties; and whether legal action or policy change resulted from the event. Each record also includes a brief text summary of the event and relevant details (including proper names of companies and individuals involved).

Research Team

  • Deborah Avant, Professor and Sié Chéou-Kang Chair for International Security and Diplomacy, University of Denver
  • Kara Kingma Neu, Sié Center Research Fellow, University of Denver