Johannesburg - The number of private security officers has more than tripled that of police officers since 1997, the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) said on Wednesday.
"The private industry has more boots on the ground than the police and the military combined," SAIRR CEO Frans Cronje told reporters in Johannesburg at the release of a report on crime trends over 20 years.
However, the report only has figures on private security from 1997.
In that year, there were 110 177 sworn police officials and 115 331 active registered security officers.
By 2014 there were 153 116 sworn police officials, but the number of registered security officers had jumped to 487 058.
The report said South African society resorted to dealing with the "criminal onslaught" by increasingly turning to private solutions.
"In poorer communities, anecdotal evidence points to vigilantism, although the levels have not been ascertained. In wealthier communities, the private sector has been drafted to do what the police cannot," it said.
"In addition, the police have shed skills to the private sector."