Security guards vs police officers in South Africa

 ·13 May 2021

The Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) has published its annual performance plan for 2021/2022, showing a steep increase in the number of security officers in South Africa over the last decade.

The report shows that there are now over 2.5 million registered security officers across the country, of which over 556,000 are active. These offices are employed by just over 10,380 registered and active security businesses.

“The number of active employed security officers has increased by 42% since 2010, while the number of security businesses has increased by 45%,” PSIRA said.

“This indicates a continuous need for private security in South Africa and an increased demand on the PSIRA to ensure an effectively regulated industry which acts in the interests of the State, the public, clients, and the private security industry.”

While the industry has historically been dominated by men, the data also shows growing transformation as more women become security officers. 124,582 women were employed in the industry by the end of October 2020 which represents an increase of 8% over the last five years.

Currently, the number of female security officers represents 22% of the total registered and active security officers in the industry, and 33% of the total registered security officers.

The number of private security guards in South Africa far outnumber the number of police. The SAPS currently has approximately 145,000 Police Service Act members and approximately 39,000 Public Service Act members at its disposal.

These members are distributed across the nine provinces and the national head office, of which approximately 132,000 Police Service Act members are placed specifically within the nine provinces.

Lockdown impact

PSIRA said that the lockdown and its associated economic impact has also had a direct correlation with rising crime, real or perceived, by both businesses and households.

The regulator said that this has led to increases in the demand for private security services and demands more services from the PSIRA.

Some of the key trends seen by the authority include:

  • Upward trends in people living in gated estates creates more demand for private security services;
  • Escalating unregulated security services in non-suburban communities, where private security is less affordable (neighbourhood watches and other formal/informal community safety initiatives);
  • The debate around what constitutes “personal information” in the regulation of the technology used by security companies to collect the personal information of people when entering secure premises or precincts. This is particularly acute in light of the Protection of Personal Information Act.

“Businesses are closing their doors and many families have experienced layoffs of either one or both breadwinners.

“In conjunction with the increased use of electronic security equipment, this is having an impact on the growth of employment within the private security industry and is creating challenging annual fee collection conditions for the Authority,” PSIRA said.

Notwithstanding, the group said that there has been recorded growth in trading density in commercial properties, especially in the rural towns and townships and in the erstwhile homelands.

In addition, the development of new malls, emerging office parks and government service delivery sites drive the demand for private security services – particularly, the number of security officers providing guarding services.

“High unemployment rates also provide opportunities for unemployed individuals who view the private security industry as an easily accessible career path due to lower training and registration fees.

“For the PSIRA, this means a demand for increased footprint and digitalisation of services to improve accessibility to the authority.”

Read: South Africa’s biggest security company is changing how it operates in the suburbs – here’s what you need to know

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