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Policing for Profit: The Future of South Africa's Private Security Industry

NCJ Number
Jenny Irish
Date Published
44 pages
The South African private security industry is increasingly performing functions that used to be the sole preserve of the police.
With feelings of insecurity rapidly rising, an increasing number of South Africans are using private security companies to protect themselves and their assets. The broad private security industry is employing over 200,000 security guards throughout the country, of which the guarding industry is the largest, with 125,000 guards working for approximately 3,200 security companies. Although the South African private security industry is increasingly performing functions traditionally associated with the police, there are clear differences in the objectives of the two services. Whereas the police are charged with protecting the public at large, the private security industry operates for profit and is accountable only to its clients. Moreover, the police generally apprehend criminals after they have committed a crime; whereas, the private security industry seeks to prevent crimes. There are many "fly-by-night" security companies that provide a cheap but substandard service, thereby tarnishing the image and reputation of the industry as a whole. Many of the larger South African private security companies have expanded their operations into other countries in Southern Africa. Private security companies have even involved themselves in political conflicts that are occurring on the subcontinent. In South Africa, private companies that make use of guards are regulated by a statutory body, the Security Officers' Board. The Board polices the regulations that govern the private security industry and sets minimum training standards for security guards. 57 notes