Cape Town - For policing in informal settlements to work, officers must move away from paramilitary-like patrols, the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry heard on Friday.

“If they deal with it in a paramilitary-like fashion, going in there like an army... if that is what they mean by crime prevention... their order maintenance function becomes impossible,” criminologist Jonny Steinberg testified.

Steinberg said crime prevention operations where large numbers of uniformed officers moved into an area to close down a shebeen did more harm than good.

“Closing down the place very aggressively late at night out of the blue in the end damages the relationship between police and residents. I don't think it does very much to prevent crime,” Steinberg said.

The professor believed that while preventative policing was important, reactive policing was just as important to foster trust between communities and the SA Police Service.

“When people can't manage... they should be able to call the police and the police will come in and provide a professional service,” Steinberg said.

“One of the ways... is to get police out of vehicles and walking in the informal settlements and being there... being close to the ground.”

Steinberg agreed with other experts who felt that throwing resources at Khayelitsha's three police stations was not the solution.

“The great temptation within an influx of new resources and personnel... is to ramp up paramilitary policing just because it's easiest,” he said.

“The challenge when new resources come in is to use them differently, use them to get genuine reactive police officers... who can respond to incidents in an intelligent, interpersonal manner.”

Steinberg was the last witness to testify before the commission Ä which has been sitting since January.

Legal representatives for the commission, the complainant organisation Äthe Social Justice Coalition (SJC), the police and other roleplayers will present their final arguments on May 29th.

The commission, chaired by retired justice Kate O'Regan, was set up by Western Cape premier Helen Zille after NGO the SJC complained that police inefficiency was the reason for mob killings becoming more prevalent in the area.

Sapa