Safety and security of communities means the protection and securing of residents and their property, prevention of anything that may threaten them, investigation of crimes and community participation in efforts to address causes of crime.
This guide provides government policy on safety and security. It has the following sections:
- Transformation: nature and style of policing
- Constitutional obligations of the South African police
- Four key priorities set by the SAPS for the 2003-2005 period
- Objectives of community policing
- The role of community organisations and development workers in the fight against crime
Before democracy, policing in South Africa served to defend the apartheid system. Policing was effective in enforcing apartheid and dealing with political resistance and there was little focus on dealing with crime in black areas. After 1994 government had to transform the nature and style of policing. Since 1994, an extensive process bringing together the police services of the former homelands and SAP was initiated. This was supported by a comprehensive transformation process to create the current South African Police Service.
Various crime combating strategies and operations were also launched in an effort to stabilise crime during the process of transformation. Mixed success was achieved. Certain crime categories were stabilised and service delivery improved in certain areas. Political violence and sabotage have been almost completely eradicated.
The function of providing safety and security for the people of South Africa is the responsibility of the South African Police Service (SAPS). The Constitution gives the South African Police the responsibility to:
- Prevent, combat and investigate crime;
- Maintain public order;
- Protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property; and
- Uphold and enforce the law
The SAPS has to enforce laws made by parliament. Since 1994 many new laws have been made to help fight crime. The SAPS works as part of the criminal justice system. Some of the other parts are:
The National Prosecuting Authority
in charge of prosecuting criminals through the courts;
a national elite investigation unit that reports to the NPA;
The Asset Forfeiture Unit
a unit that seizes the possessions of people suspected of big crimes (also part of the NPA);
judges who sit in judgment in court cases and are independent of the state;
The Correctional Service
The department that runs the jails
The SAPS has set four key operational priorities for the period 2003 - 2005:
- Organised crime: To combat organised crime, focusing on crimes relating to drugs, firearms trafficking, vehicle theft and hijacking, corrupt public officials, and organised commercial crime.
- Serious and violent crime: To bring down South Africa’s unacceptably high levels of serious and violent crime. The Department has developed strategies to:
- counter the proliferation of firearms, as this fuels high levels of violent crime;
- improve safety and security in high-crime areas;
- combat specific crime generators such as taxi and gang violence, and faction fighting;
- maintain security at major public events
- Women and children: To reduce the incidence of crimes against women and children.
- Service delivery: To improve service delivery at local level.
Since 1993 the SAPS adopted a Community Policing process to meet the safety and security requirements of all people in the country. A major objective of community policing is to establish active partnerships between the police and the community especially at local level through which crime, service delivery and community-police relations can be evaluated and plans to address problems implemented. Throughout our country Community Policing Forums (CPFs) have been set up to work with the SAPS.
Prior to 1994 the relationship between the police and communities often involved conflict situations in the form of public unrest and attacks on police personnel. The police were regarded as agents of the government who in turn enforced many laws that were discriminatory and oppressed the majority of residents of this country.
The CPFs were set up to involve all local stakeholders and key organisations. They meet regularly with the officers in charge of the local police station and discuss problems and solutions to crime in their area. The adoption of community policing did not only bring about a turn-around in the crime situation but changed the way SAPS addresses crime. For community policing to be successful it is important for members of the community to realise and accept that they also have a social and moral obligation to assist and support the SAPS in the fight against crime and other forms of social disorder. With the support and involvement of the community the police will be in a position to meet the safety and security needs of the country.
Community organisations and development workers have to work with Community Policing Forums to mobilise community support in the fight against crime. This includes:
- identifying crime hot-spots and informing the police about problems;
- monitoring police service delivery;
- visiting schools with the SAPS to speak to learners and teachers;
- running education and awareness campaigns on community role to fight crime.
- mobilising civil society organisations to become active members of the community police forum
SAPS Strategic Framework www.saps.gov.za
Manual on Community Policing www.saps.gov.za
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