PRIVATE security guards now outnumber police officers in South Australia by almost two to one.
And hundreds of them are allowed to carry firearms as part of their licensing conditions.
Industry commentators say the demand for security guards, bouncers and crowd controllers is set to increase further as people take personal protection into their own hands instead of relying on police.
Griffith University associate professor Tim Prenzler, who wrote the report Mapping the Australian Security Industry, said fear of crime was fuelling demand for protection at events such as parties.
"There's a definite shift away from a subconscious reliance on police and it's the idea of self-protection and people having to take responsibility for themselves," he said.
In SA, there are now 3907 police officers, according to SA Police.
In contrast, there are 7420 security guards and/or crowd controllers and 271 security companies licensed with the Office of Business and Consumer Affairs.
Of the guards, 714 have firearms licences, which allows them to carry a firearm only for the purpose of guarding property.
Crowd controllers are not allowed to carry firearms.
Nationally, the private security workforce exceeds 150,000 personnel, according to the Australian Security Industry Association (ASIAL).
"The growth in the industry is essentially demand-driven and can be attributed to the growth in crime, starting in the 1970s, right through to the 1990s," Prof Prenzler said.
"Everything except murder has gone up, especially volume crime like burglary and theft, motor vehicle theft and assault."
Prof Prenzler said private security officers would never replace police altogether, even though they were a less expensive form of protection.
"The way police are structured simply means they cannot provide the level of preventative services that people now believe they need to prevent crime," he said.
Adelaide security provider Frank Drioli, who runs Amulet security, said he regularly received calls from people wanting to hire uniformed security guards for parties and private functions.
"And I think people are going to start to look at it even more from now on," he said.
"Some clients call us because they have trouble getting security from other places, but I see our role as a security company provider so, if people are looking for private security guards, we don't hesitate at all."
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