SA ‘addicted to private security’

2008-08-15 00:00

South Africans are addicted to private security, forking out billions to profit hungry companies, but spending very little on the community policing forums that have proven effective in combating crime.

A recent survey by SA Community Action Network (SA Can) head Brian Jones revealed that homeowners in the upper highway area (Kloof and Hillcrest) spend at least R7,4 million on armed response and monitoring. In contrast, the annual financial report of the Hillcrest Community Policing Forum, a non-profit organisation, revealed that there was just R1 375 in the kitty for the whole of 2007. “We don’t believe we need to spend one more cent on private security. R50 billion is enough. We need to spend on real policing,” said Jones, who said his own organisation is “extremely financially stressed”. He said SA Can served 70% of the upper highway area and has 6 200 homes registered, whether paying or not.

Their communications bill each month tops R20 000 even though the organisation receives heavily discounted rates and only sends out SMSes with essential warnings. As crime grows, the number of messages is climbing — from 18 421 in June to 26 315 in July — while fuel bills are rocketing.

Nevertheless, he said that SA Can is encouraged by the fact that it has over 30 000 e-mail addresses registered and 67 SA Can Family Watches that will give them an opportunity to develop a new community-style policing system.

He said it is just too dangerous to patrol the neighbourhood as community policing organisations have done in the past. Instead, men need to stay at home and look after their families.

However, people can “patrol” by being alert when on daily errands.

Jones said South Africans are clearly “beyond a state of panic” and a major challenge is that people are so fearful that they are over-reacting to problems. He said community members recently called to report teens loitering and carrying knives. When they investigated, they found “normal kids walking home from school”.

However, people also tend to forget some of the most violent crimes extremely quickly. There have been 37 murders reported to SA Can in the highway area since September last year, but even the most high-profile cases hold the public’s attention for no more than a week.

However, Jones stressed that there are also many success stories and positive developments.

One of the most encouraging has been an invitation to participate in Action For A Safe SA, a workshop aimed at bringing together critical people to construct an effective and appropriate response to violent crime. The workshops in Johannesburg are on August 26 and 27.

SA Can can be contacted by e-mail at mail@cicfamily.co.za.

Their website is www.sacan.co.za.

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