2007-02-10 : 'It's not police's job to prevent crime'

arglet@inl.co.za (was arglet@ctn.independent.co.za)<br>
Fax: 021 488 4156

Moderator: GenMod

2007-02-10 : 'It's not police's job to prevent crime'

Postby GOSA » Fri, 2007-06-08 07:15

'It's not police's job to prevent crime'
February 10 2007 at 10:49AM

By Michael Schmidt

It is not the job of the police to prevent crime - and politicians and
the public who demand they meet this "impossible mandate" are causing
South Africa's crime wave to escalate.

That is the startling main thrust of a new book, Strategic
Perspectives on Crime and Policing in South Africa, by Johan Burger, a
crime and justice programme analyst at the Institute for Security
Studies and a former SA Police Service assistant commissioner with 36
years' service in the police.

Burger's claim - that we have the bull by the tail, instead of the
horns, on ways to fight crime - has been backed by other leading
policing analysts, including Barbara Holtmann of the Council for
Scientific and Industrial Research.

The police, the analysts agreed, were not and should not be our
front-line defence against crime. Instead of the R46 billion spent on
private security last year, or the millions to be spent on adding 60
000 more cops by 2010 (to the 156 000 currently in service), business
and government should pour their millions into social welfare, they

Holtmann said adding more cops, more guns and more jails to the
overstretched criminal justice system - while ignoring juvenile
delinquency and other roots of criminality such as racism, class
struggle and socio-economic factors - was simply turning the country
into a "fortress" that forced criminals to use greater violence to get
the goods; a vicious cycle.

This macho, gung-ho attitude towards curbing crime has it all wrong,
the analysts said. Holtmann, for example, said that for the Child Act
to protect the number of children in need, 16 000 social workers
focusing exclusively on children would be needed. But there are only
11 000 social workers in the country, dealing with all social ills,
with a mere 4 000 more promised.

"You hear big business demanding 'more police', whereas they should be
demanding 'more social workers'," she said. "Intervening for children
should be seen as a long-term crime-prevention strategy."

The government's scrapping of its social upliftment Reconstruction and
Development Programme at the end of the 1990s - which had once been a
cornerstone of its crime-prevention strategy - had helped precipitate
the slide into lawlessness, Burger said.

The analysts suggested that the "misdirected" pressure exerted on the
police by politicians and the public to deliver had led to the police
under-reporting some crimes.

The analyst said that "problems with a lack of civilian oversight over
information and performance-management data may mean that President
Mbeki and (Safety and Security Minister) Charles Nqakula are not
getting accurate crime information", suggesting this is why they
continue to pooh-pooh the public's growing hysteria about violent

"Overall, crimes like burglary, common assault and assault with the
intent to cause grievous bodily harm appear to be going down, big
reductions, but it could just be they aren't recording them on the

"But you can't hide crimes like hijacking, murder and business robbery
because there may be litigation, insurance claims or inquests, so
those have been stabilised at a high range - or continue to rise."

Crime statistics were, in any case, misread, Holtmann said: "If the
stats go up, people assume that police performance is down and if they
go down, they assume the police are doing a good job; it's bizarre. We
need to be looking at other measures to make ourselves safe. Only once
we reduce crime can we look at improving the criminal justice system."

And yet, Burger wrote, Business Against Crime had poured resources
into a fruitless restructuring of the police, courts and prisons. The
bitter experience of the United Kingdom under Margaret Thatcher was
that throwing money, guns and personnel at the police had no effect in
terms of curbing crime.

The government analyst said, in fact, that the presence of poorly
trained, ill-disciplined police was often in itself a generator of

Burger said South Africa had latched on to the New York example of
"zero tolerance" without understanding that the success of New York's
anti-crime drive was not just about putting swinging truncheons on the
streets but about implementing a huge social welfare scheme.

This article was originally published on page 8 of Cape Argus on February 10, 2007
What have YOU done for YOUR rights today?
Site Admin
Posts: 1598
Joined: Sun, 2006-01-29 15:42
Location: South Africa

Return to Cape Argus

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest