Pretoria - Research by the University of Pretoria (UP) has demonstrated the importance of community policing forums (CPFs) in fighting crime in high-risk environments, such as in Johannesburg.
“UP is passionate about doing innovative, impactful research that is transformational for people and society,” said Dr Mary Mangai, a lecturer at UP’s School of Public Management and Administration.
Mangai is also lead author of a study titled “The Importance of a Police-Community Partnership (Co-production): A Study of the City of Johannesburg”, which was published in the International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change.
“Our research on community policing addresses one of South Africa’s most pressing societal concerns: the security and safety of lives and properties.”
Co-author Professor Natasja Holtzhausen added: “The role of society as an active participant in taking agency is addressed in the context of co-production.”
The study echoes a concern voiced by Thandi Modise, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, in February 2022 about the “low level of trust” between members of the public and the various law enforcement agencies.
“We will endeavour to rebuild trust between community members and officers deployed in communities,” Modise said.
“This will entail reviving community policing forums (CPFs), which will work with local police stations to fight crime. This will ensure an inclusive approach to assessing threats in communities and put in place the necessary responses.”
Dr Tyanai Masiya, a senior lecturer at the School of Public Management and Administration, said: “Our research on community policing will contribute towards police-community partnerships that reduce crime in cities such as Johannesburg.”
Communities are affected by high crime of all types, including murder, sexual offences, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, common assault, common robbery, robbery with aggravating circumstances and hijacking.
UP’s research shows that stronger, well-resourced, more effective CPFs can make a significant impact in reducing such crimes.
A police-community partnership closes the gap between the police and community members by establishing a working relationship and deep engagement between the two.
Communities share responsibilities with the police, such as street patrols and guarding private and public properties.
“In order to improve neighbourhood security, CPFs should be better supported by the SAPS,” Mangai said. “Infiltration by criminals should be prevented and structures should be well funded. This should include keeping accurate and centralised data on CPF activities at police station levels, if possible.”
The university’s research also clearly points out the challenges that the police face.
In a second study published by the same authors, this time in the Technium Social Sciences Journal, police officers revealed that they lacked resources such as vehicles and officers to ensure full coverage of policing areas.
According to them, policing in informal settlements and hostels was particularly difficult because of inaccessibility and overcrowding.
A community partnership could mitigate these challenges by, for example, asking businesses to donate resources to the police and, since the police shares resources with communities – such as trailers and caravans for street patrollers – getting community members to volunteer to increase police manpower is another option.
The police could also make use of drones to monitor settlements where houses are closely built together.
However, there is still a long way to go when it comes to creating safe environments in Johannesburg.
The government, SAPS, civil society and private security companies will need to work together to eliminate neighbourhood security challenges.
Incorporating co-production will ensure that innovative and inclusive security initiatives are created.