Private security vs police officer numbers in South Africa

The Democratic Alliance has published a new release on the number of police officers in South Africa.

The release follows a recent parliamentary Q&A session in which it was revealed that that the Western Cape’s police-to-population ratio has worsened over the last two years.

“Overall, the ratio of police officers to citizens in South Africa has regressed slightly between 2016 and 2018, from 347 citizens per officer, to 369 citizens per officer – according to the SAPS annual report,” said DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Community Safety, Mireille Wenger.

“However, my parliamentary replies reveal that the Western Cape and police precincts in the City of Cape Town have harshly deteriorated over the last 2 years and are now well below the country’s average,” she said.

She added that this was concerning considering that the Western Cape is suffering from ongoing gang violence, violent protests and the high rates of murder.

“We need to be assured that SAPS are dealing with these problems and are getting the necessary support and proper capacitation to carry out their duties,” she said.

“Policing is an entirely national government function, as provided for by the Constitution. The decision of where and when police stations are built, and how many officers we have rests solely with the national (ANC) government.

“Every citizen of South Africa deserves to live in a society free of the fear of crime no- matter where they live. In order to achieve this, police management at national government must address the severe under-resourcing in Western Cape immediately, before crime gets worse.”

Police – Population ratio 2016 Police – Population ratio 2018
National average 1:347 1:369
Western Cape average 1:385 1:509
City of Cape Town average 1:439 1:560

Private security vs police officers

According to the latest SAPS data from 2017, there are currently 102,059 employed visible policing officers in South Africa.

In addition there are 39,069 people employed in the country’s ‘Detective Service’, 9,153 people employed in ‘Crime Intelligence’, and 6,595 employed in ‘Protection and Security Services’.

However, South Africa also has a massive private security sector which dwarfs the current police force according to the latest 2018/2019 report by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA).

According to PSIRA’s registration records, there are currently 2.36 million security officers registered in South Africa – of which over 498,435 are employed by just over 9,000 registered and active security businesses.

This means that there are close to five security officers to every police officer in South Africa.

“These security businesses and employee security officers represent all the different categories or classes of security service providers as defined in the PSIR Act, with the majority falling within what is generally described as the guarding sector,” it said.

Most of security businesses and security officers are operating and employed in Gauteng followed by KwaZulu-Natal (42% and 39% respectively), and the Western Cape.

Over the last 17 years, the number of registered and employed security officers grew by 157% and the number of security businesses by 65%.


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