The concept of criminal justice is age-old. The first known codified law was the Code of Hammurabi, a Babylonian legal code dating back to 1754 BC.
Today, the concept has evolved rapidly from the Babylonian principle of “an eye for an eye” to a set of complex and interdependent government institutions and laws whose collective goal is to investigate, arrest and convict unlawful individuals.
In most modern states, the criminal justice system works as follows: law enforcement investigates cases and gathers evidence, which results in arrests.
Those arrested appear before a court of law. If they are found guilty, they may be sentenced to jail where they will serve their sentence.
The primary institutions involved in this are law enforcement, the judiciary and correctional services.
If any one of these three major institutions becomes dysfunctional or is undermined, the safety of our citizens is put at risk.
The Department of Community Safety takes a number of steps to counteract and address these threats.
It’s no secret that the SAPS faces resource and training constraints. The Global Corruption Barometer Africa recently revealed that the SAPS is considered the most corrupt institution in the country. Service is often halted, leaving citizens stranded when they need police the most.
To address these service delivery issues, the department supported the launch of 100 additional law enforcement officers in Bonteheuwel for the Neighbourhood Safety Team.
Between January and June, there were 44 reported cases of murder. Since then, the number of reported murders has declined rapidly.
The department will proceed with the upcoming CPF elections between now and December. CPFs play an invaluable role in bridging the gap between communities and the police.
Too often we hear of heart-wrenching cases of murder and rape being thrown out of court because of poor SAPS investigations, and many of those arrested are not convicted and are released back on to the streets.
To address this, the department has established the Court Watching Briefs Unit to monitor police conduct and oversee the effectiveness of the police service, as per Section 206 (3) (a) and (b) of the Constitution. It reports on serious criminal cases that have been scrapped from the court roll as a result of SAPS inefficiencies.
The courts observed include areas where gangs are active. In the previous financial year, the unit dealt with 3269 matters in 37 courts across the province. Reports are submitted to the SAPS on a quarterly basis and corrective action is taken by SAPS management.
Once a convicted criminal arrives in prison, new safety threats emerge. Prisons in the Western Cape are often referred to as “universities of crime” because of the hold gangs have over prisons. Added to that, prisons are overcrowded and a significant proportion of the population are under 25.
Ultimately, each of us must take personal responsibility for reporting crime and supporting safety initiatives in our community.
* Albert Fritz is community safety MEC.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.