Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Regulating private security in Australia

Media Release

02 December 1998

The Australian Institute of Criminology today released the report Regulating Private Security in Australia.

This report surveys the growth and current size of the private security industry. The exact number of security personnel is difficult to identify, but using a conservative definition of security work it appears there are approximately 100,000 security personnel in Australia, outnumbering state and federal police by more than two to one. The industry is also highly diverse, covering guards and crowd controllers, but also inquiry agents, loss prevention officers, experts in fraud prevention and other specialist fields.

The researchers, Dr Tim Prenzler from Griffith University and Professor Rick Sarre, University of South Australia, argue that private security performs a crucial role in crime prevention and law enforcement, a role which often goes unnoticed, with most media attention being focused on police. It also means that the dark side of the industry is also sometimes ignored to the detriment of the public interest. Although the majority of security providers appear to provide a quality product, the report documents recent cases of alleged malpractice by security personnel in Australia. Recognition of the potential for fraud and poor service provision have prompted a clear trend towards increased regulation by governments, and the industry supports this.

All states and territories have now introduced licence requirements, including criminal record checks and minimum training, for at least some sections of the industry. Several states, such as New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia, have either comprehensive or near-comprehensive licensing of the industry including locksmiths and security hardware installers.

The two most pressing issues identified in the report are training - the average compulsory course for a license is about one week - and creation of a uniform national system of regulation. The latter would ensure equal standards across the country and allow firms and individuals to work anywhere in Australia without requiring separate licences.