In the South African context, a Crime Stop movement can go a long way to establishing safer communities and to ensuring property security. Although many countries have adopted a Crime Stop programme in one form or another, few are as in need of community input as South Africa is: over time, we have become an extremely violent society, and have in many ways quite simply accepted that property is unsecured and that crime is a part of life.
The pervasiveness of crime cannot be adequately dealt with by our underfunded and understaffed police force alone: public engagement has become a critical factor in crime reduction.
The Crime Stop movement can only be effective if the community at large, and not just a few discrete individuals, take part in the efforts to bring criminal elements to book. The key role-players in a Crime Stop movement include the police force, the government, the media, and the public. The central idea behind the Crime Stop hotline is that normal citizens, who have a greater ability to know what is happening in their community than a few police personnel, can act as agents in the fight against crime. Whereas all crime information is welcomed, information about ongoing criminal activities may prove more useful than information about petty crime (for example, seeing someone steal a Nikon coolpix camera).
In many circumstances people have wanted to come forward with information but have decided against doing so owing to legitimate fears about retaliation. In these conditions police investigation becomes very difficult as communities are dominated by anti-social criminal elements who rule through fear and threats of violence. Witnesses thus become difficult to find, and investigation hits dead ends. If, on the other hand, people are allowed to contact authorities anonymously, thereby protecting their identity and side-stepping retaliatory action, the chances are much more likely that investigative work will yield positive results.
The role of the police force is to follow up on genuine and useful information, and in the long run it is to show a positive response to community involvement. The media is also tasked with playing a role as important community-oriented information must be communicated to the public. The job of protecting your Morningside property for sale cannot be left to the police alone. In addition to immediate additional services like private security, community policing and general vigilance will deter would be criminal elements.
The first priority in this process is the communication of the fact that a Crime Stop hotline has been set up, and that callers may remain 100% anonymous. Further information is necessary to establish trust between communities and the police, which in turn will hopefully grow a general confidence in the programme. The need for collaboration is outlined by the Divisional Commissioner of the Detective Service, JF de Beer:
Community safety and security is a partnership based upon interdependence. This is particularly so in regard to crime prevention and detection. The police cannot ever be omnipresent. Criminals bargain on this, and some communities are consequently ruled by violence and fear. The only way to make criminals back-off is to expose them for what they are – they have no regard for the lives of our children. Let’s turn the tide together and let the criminals become the hunted and not the hunters.
In case anyone is wondering how effective the programme is, it should be pointed out that since 1994, over R1 billion in stolen goods has been recovered, and that 250 000 cases have been successfully concluded owing to community participation.
Crime Stop: 08600 10111