By Hlulani Mashaba
The Gauteng province remains one of the most densely populated, with almost 16 million residents. This has an adverse effect on the rate of unemployment, resulting in increased poverty and desperation, leading to people feeling unsafe due to criminal activities.
Safety remains a daunting challenge in the province, and several studies confirmed that citizens are not feeling safe in their areas during the day and night (GCRO, 2017 & GDCS, 2018). Crimes that continue to threaten the province include sexual offences, robbery and murder, amongst others.
The recent crime picture, as highlighted during the South African Police Service (SAPS) Gauteng presentation of the crime statistics (January – March 2022) this week, laid bare the intricacies and the mammoth task the police are facing in turning the tide against crime. Gauteng contributed about 27.6% of cases to the national crime picture.
The fact that Gauteng accounted for the bulk of kidnapping cases, notably Kempton Park and Heidelberg stations, is nerve-wrecking. One can ask oneself, what has gone wrong in these stations? Other crime categories such as assault GBH, common assault and aggravated robbery contributed 33% of the overall crime in Gauteng. These sub-categories contribute to other crimes such as attempted murder and murder.
While aggravated robbery, such as trio crimes and CIT robberies, have increased to 11%, translating to a total of 6 342 cases, it is commendable to note that business robberies were reduced with 3.7%, amounting to 60 less cases as compared to the same period in 2020/2021.
The province has also recorded a 45.2 % increase in murders, which amounts to 1 403 people killed during this period. This translates to 437 more people murdered as compared to the same period in 2020/2021.
The province is also experiencing a high number of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) cases. GBV and the safety of vulnerable groups is inclusive of crime against women, children, people with disabilities and LGTBQI+ communities. It is disheartening to note that Sexual offences have increased by 11.3%, 2 921 were recorded for sexual offences, while rape accounts for 2 267.
It is, therefore, evident that the creation of safer communities has reached a critical point. This upward trend calls for all sectors of society to join a social movement in the fight against crime. This requires effective community-centred policing.The recent crime statistics reflect the widespread criminal elements that the province continues to experience.
While additional funds have been prioritised by the Ministry of Police for the police stations with a high number of murders, rapes and other violent crimes to change the status quo, communities must work closely with law enforcement agencies to realise the impact.
The need for the law enforcement agencies to entrench themselves in their respective communities through effective and functional Community Police Forums (CPFs) cannot be stressed enough.
The Gauteng Provincial Government has established a War Room on Crime to assist the police in the fight against crime. This paves the way to accelerate community safety efforts with an emphasis on improved public safety at ward level, strengthened partnerships towards the elimination of GBVF and improved policing through an efficient and effective Integrated Provincial Command Centre.
The War Room on Crime is expected to deal with crime and criminality in the public sector, cyber-crimes, defence forces, GBVF, illegal land invasion and occupation. This will be done through a project-based approach. Central to War Room is co-ordination between various stakeholders and accelerated efforts towards improving policing and community safety in the province.
Changing the crime picture requires effective co-ordination and planning. This includes improving public safety at ward level, calling for an approach that facilitates and conceives a functional network and support system for intergovernmental planning, including civil society and community consultations for crime prevention and response in relation to a specific ward.
The ward-based approach will align with the District Development Model (DDM) approach, which is aimed primarily at facilitating joint planning and unlocking misalignment on crime-related interventions between law enforcement agencies (LEAs) at ward level as well as building relations between the community and the police.
The War Room on Crime is stakeholder management and communication for mobilisation of critical stakeholders and engagement on a continuous basis to keep track of crime and patterns related to developments in each ward for appropriate interventions. Through the War Room, the Integrated Command Centre will be established to ensure all LEAs and other Departments are coordinated from a central point whereby intelligence-driven deployments are conducted to ensure safety interventions to enable service delivery by various Departments and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).
Hlulani Mashaba is the Deputy Director: Media Relations, Gauteng Department of Community Safety.