Cops can’t fight crime alone
Our communities have a vital role to play in policing – we all need to get involved, says Yusuf Abramjee.
Johannesburg - Crime continues to dominate the headlines. Not a day goes by without some tragedy playing out in the country due to the apparent increase in crime.
The senseless murder of 4-year-old Taegrin Morris in Reiger Park and the hijacking of a father and his 5-year-old son near Bronkhorstspruit are the latest incidents to shock the nation. Now, 3-year-old Luke Tibbetts is fighting for his life after being caught up in crossfire between gangs in Westbury.
Emotions are understandably running high. There is anger.
“Why are these ruthless criminals targeting our children?” we might ask. The answer is: Crime does not discriminate.
Criminals have no respect for age, gender or colour. They have no respect for the rich, middle class or poor. They have no respect for our lives and property. They won’t let anything or anyone stand in the way of taking what is not theirs.
All we can do is work together to fight this scourge. We need to channel this outrage into something positive.
It is our duty to blow the whistle on criminals by using tip-off services such as Crime Line or Crime Stop.
We cannot sit on the sidelines and allow criminals to hold communities to ransom. We have to become active citizens and take a decisive stand against crime.
Community policing is vital. Both the police and communities must take the lead here and work closely together. If not, criminals will continue smiling all the way to the bank.
It’s no secret that we have some rotten cops. The fact that so many continue to be arrested for crimes, including corruption, shows that these men and women in uniform have no respect for our laws.
They need to be charged, convicted and punished, but let’s not forget the many police officers who are hard-working, dedicated and committed.
They risk their lives daily to protect us and these law enforcers need our support.
We know confidence in the SAPS is rather low. This does not mean we don’t have to work with them or support them to get criminals behind bars.
This is why it is vital to hold the police accountable and work with them to strengthen their role in our communities.
We must continue to ensure they serve citizens professionally. If they fail to do so, we must be free to criticise them and name and shame the culprits.
Some say the jury is still out about national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega. She has been trying, albeit behind closed doors, to sort out the mess.
It’s no easy task.
Another way to improve public confidence in the SAPS is to ensure the police leadership is on the ground constantly.
They need to be seen and heard. They must lead this war on crime from the front.
Civil society and business must continue to support initiatives and efforts to create a safer South Africa. Business Against Crime South Africa, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre, Operation Khanyisa, Tracker and the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft are good examples of effective partnerships with law enforcement.They need to be supported and strengthened.
Crime Line is another partnership.
It was launched seven years ago and has seen thousands of criminals being arrested and millions of rand in counterfeit and stolen goods recovered.
The results speak for themselves. Thanks to ordinary members of the public, the police continue to record these successes. In October, Crime Line South Africa will be hosting the 2014 Crime Stoppers International Conference in Cape Town.
It is aimed at educating and informing civilians, NGOs and law enforcement officials. It’s time! The conference is traditionally a training conference. It brings the international community together to learn from each other, which is important because crime has no borders.
We must make it our moral and civic duty to blow the whistle on crime. We cannot sit back and allow criminals to terrorise our communities. For how long are we going to live in fear?
Mosques in the Joburg area were recently targeted by criminals. Here again, it shows these gangs have absolutely no respect for our sacred places.
When worshippers go to pray, they need to do so feeling safe, feeling protected and having peace of mind.
The police cannot be visible everywhere. That’s why it is up to us to be vigilant – to be the eyes and ears for authorities.
Community police forums are effective – but not effective enough. They also become targets for power struggles and corruption. These forums need to be beefed up and the police need to give them more support.
The question is, what can ordinary citizens do to fight crime?
There are a number of communities that are using technology to create networks in their communities.
Join your local community forum or residents’ association and ensure you keep updated on crime alerts in your area.
Empower and support your domestic worker through your local domestic forum. Record your sector police numbers on your phone, including other emergency numbers. Vigilance is key. Information is power. Know who your neighbours are.
A support network in a community goes a long way in ensuring that suspicious vehicles and individuals are spotted and removed. Neighbourhood watch initiatives are just as effective.
If you are driving home late at night, maintain contact with a family member and be aware of what is going on around you at all times. If your children are in the car, ensure they do not distract you and teach them to also keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour.
In the spirit of LeadSA, stand up, do the right thing and make a difference. Someone, somewhere, somehow knows something about crime. SMS Crime Line on 32211 or call 08600 10111.
I challenge you to partner with us. It is in our hands to make a difference and create a society free of the terror of crime.
* Yusuf Abramjee is a LeadSA activist and the head of Crime Line.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.