Unveiling the guardians: CPFs and private security firms redefining crime fighting strategies

The relationship between community policing forums, private securities and police remains one that works to better protect the community. Graphic: Se-Anne Rall

The relationship between community policing forums, private securities and police remains one that works to better protect the community. Graphic: Se-Anne Rall

Published Apr 21, 2024


In a joint effort by police and private security companies, three suspects were arrested in the Eastern Cape after they allegedly posed as second hand buyers of solar power batteries and robbed a homeowner. In Limpopo, a 26-year-old man was arrested after police and private security companies responded to a tip-off about an armed man planning to poach rhinos. In Rustenburg, local community policing forums (CPFs) joined police in a crime disruption operation in Rustenburg, as part of a wider plan to fight crime in the community. In Durban, several vehicles hijacked at various points around the city were recovered by various private security companies and CPFs.

These are just some of the many crime fighting initiatives across the country in which ordinary men and women volunteer their time to work alongside police in anti-crime operations.

Years ago, communities, 'gatvol' with crime on their doorsteps decided to take a stand against criminals. This birthed CPFs and Neighbourhood Watches or NWHs.

Along with often heavily armed private security guards, CPFs and NHWs help to ensure safety on the streets.

Gauteng police, private security companies and local CPFs joined hands in Operation Shanela - this led to the arrests of more than 70 suspects.Picture: SAPS

In 2022, South African Police Service (SAPS) Minister, Bheki Cele, said the police ministry remained committed to police-community partnerships and commended those taking an active role in crime fighting.

"In principle, we agree that CPFs across the country must be better supported and provided with resources and funds to assist police in crime detection and prevention. It is clear that police need communities and communities need the police, if we are to win this fight against crime. We know and appreciate the role of CPFs, neighbourhood watches, street patrollers and similar anti-crime structures in the policing value chain. This is why the call by communities to fund CPFs is currently being addressed at the highest level," Cele said.

Last year, the SAPS ministry said there were over 1,100 functional CPFs across South Africa.

At the time, Cele said the fight against crime will never be won without community participation.

He added that for the first time in the history of policing, the ministry realised the funding of CPFs and R70 million of the budget will go to support CPFs across the country.

Well known KZN private secuirty company, Reaction Unit SA tracked a Durban man who allegedly kidnapped and tried to kill his wife, to Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape. Picture: Supplied

However, there are instances where these structures take the law into their own hands.

Speaking to IOL, Janus Horn of Homeland Security, said various CPFs, although have the same mandate, work differently depending on the area.

Operating outside the law

"Unfortunately some community members, I would not say CPF, take the law into their own hands. When we get on scene and a suspect has been injured it is a nightmare. Unfortunately students and informal residents seem to have had enough of crime and they always beat up the suspects. Our CPF members sign a code of conduct and they know what is expected of them," he said.

He added that in instances, residents are the eyes and ears on the ground.

"They generally alert the CPF, who will alert security company and SAPS.

"It is vital for them to work together as this is the only way that crime will be stopped. We have proven in Manor Gardens that working together yields results. The same strategy has been implemented in Umbilo and they have improved from being one of the worst police stations," Horn said.

In many cases, CPF and proactive security companies have WhatsApp groups where they are informed of crime and communities know that the response time from these entities are generally quicker than police.

Horn said unfortunately SAPS have major challenges with regards to manpower.

"Modern technology, Artificial Intelligence, cameras, Automatic Number-Plate Recognition (ANPR) infrastructure are things that police don't have access to but security companies and CPFs do.

Chairperson of the eThekwini district policing board, Aidan David, said the working together of police, CPFs and private security companies is a formula that works.

CPFs at the car handover event in Durban. Picture: Supplied

Earlier this month, crime fighting efforts in KwaZulu-Natal were bolstered by the handing over of vehicles to CPFs, which aims increase street patrols and strengthen the working relationship between police and the community.

Cars were handed over to various CPFs in KZN to help boost community crime-fighting structures. Pictures: Supplied

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