5 serious issues with government’s plan to shake-up private security in SA

The upcoming Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill is a veiled attempt to monopolise policing and a means for the state to benefit from the multi-billion industry.

This is according to Conrad van Rooyen, MD of BICASEC Risk Services who said that the bill is likely to cause irreparable damage to an industry that is currently experiencing an unprecedented growth rate.

Citizens are now spending as much as R45 billion annually to safeguard their lives, assets, homes and businesses, said van Rooyen.

“That’s a third more than the government spent on our police force in 2016 – making South Africa’s private security industry the fourth largest in the world per capita.

“As long as the state keeps failing to supply sufficient security for civil society, its privatisation will continue despite attempts to improve official policing.”

Citing the most recent Stats SA reports, van Rooyen said that there are currently in the region of 500,000 active private security officers in South Africa – outnumbering South African Police Service employees by almost four to one.

“The state is of course experiencing this industry boom as a serious threat, even resorting to attempts at passing a controversial new private security bill,” he said.

“If approved, this bill will give power to the minister of police to expropriate up to 100% of a foreign-owned security company, and limit foreign ownership of private security companies to 49%.   It’s further estimated that more than 800,000 jobs across various sectors would be lost, as well as about R133 billion of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.”

According to Van Rooyen, not only will this bill reign in private security, it’s also a veiled attempt to monopolise policing and a means for the state to benefit from the multi-billion industry.

Besides being in violation of South Africa’s commitments under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services, what’s most worrying is the bill’s impact on the paramount role our private security industry plays, he said.

These are the five biggest ways the proposed changes to the security industry will affect everyday South Africans according to van Rooyen.

SA’s murder rate

“Our murder rate has risen nationally for the fourth year in a row, from 33 per 100,000 in 2014/2015 to 34 per 100,000 last year.

“By all indication this increase in fatal violence will continue over coming years.  What’s unsettling is that to date there are no solid answers as to why this is happening,” said van Rooyen.

The threat to suburbia

“Whilst recorded rates of house burglaries are on a long and steady decline – they’re now about a third lower than they were 15 years ago – this trend is mainly due to the increased reliance on private security companies,” said van Rooyen.

“Simply put, life without the security backing of private companies has become inconceivable.”

The threat to the retail sector

According to van Rooyen there has been a “staggering” 349% increase in business robberies over the last 11 years.

This translates to an average of 54 reported armed robberies against businesses per day over the 2015/2016 cycle, he said citing SAPS statistics.

“With an astounding 90% of attacks against businesses due to insider participation, there’s further been at least a 35% increase in attacks against retail cash deposit machines, safes and vaults.   There’s also been a marked increase in the use of explosives.

“In reaction, and at too-great-a-cost, our retail sector now has to dig deeper and deeper to safeguard its earnings, customers and employees.”

Read: How much money we tip car guards in SA

Cash-in-transit (CIT) heists and the inventiveness of crime syndicates

According to Dr Hennie Lochner, a senior lecturer at the University of South Africa and a former detective working on cash-in-transit cases, CIT syndicates’ methods are far more intricate and better executed than what is speculated.

“Typical cash in transit robberies are planned from 5-18 months before execution, and often with the help of corrupted cash in transit guards.  They also set up safe houses close to the crime scene – mostly these are luxury homes in affluent neighbourhoods, drawing little attention.”

“Syndicates are aware of the best escape routes, the pattern of police presence, where the CIT van is parked for collection and delivery, the amount of shoppers on site, the positioning of security guards and their numbers, as well as what’s happening a few hours before execution,” said van Rooyen.

“Needless to say, our CIT industry is not geared to counter the threat posed by syndicates becoming more and more inventive with their strategies. This level of inventiveness is also not restricted to CIT crimes, but prevalent across all sectors targeted by criminals.”

Lack of public faith in the SAPS

The recent Victims of Crime survey showed that the public’s faith in the police’s ability to solve crimes is steadily dropping, said van Rooyen.

“For example, in 2011 64% of people had confidence in the police, whilst over the 2015/2016 cycle it dropped to 58.8%.”

One of the main reasons for the country’s continuous upward crime spiral is the state of police service at grassroots level, he said.

“In essence, and besides the scourge of corruption already plaguing our police force, it’s also under-staffed, its members under-trained, and it lacks vital resources to combat the ingenuity of modern syndicates.  Sadly, the only part of the SAPS that meets security standards is the VIP Protection Service that works exclusively for our political elite.

“No wonder South Africa’s citizens opt for private security.  They literally hide behind walls guarded by electric fences, alarms and sensors, with security control room operatives on standby.

“If there’s a break-in or attack it’s mostly the security company one calls first, not the police.”

Read: New laws could mean the end of private security as we know it in SA: report

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5 serious issues with government’s plan to shake-up private security in SA