Winning formula

2008-05-07 00:00

On Monday three suspected members of the notorious “five-minute” gang of thieves were arrested in Montrose, Pietermaritzburg after residents and police worked together to apprehend them. Indications are that the police will be able to track down and arrest the remaining gang members soon.

It was almost a text-book operation: residents of the recently targeted suburbs, having obtained information about the modus operandi of the criminals from the media

(principally, this newspaper), went on the alert, observed suspicious activity, and summoned the police. The latter, eager to make an end of this particular crime wave, moved fast and the men were caught. It was like a simple equation from a child’s arithmetic primer: public + press + police = prison. And that ultimately should lead to peace in these particular neighbourhoods.

As the hard-pressed SAPS has repeatedly emphasised, the public — including the victims of crime — are the primary force, or perhaps the first bastion, against crime. It is when ordinary people realise this, inform themselves and become fully alert, observant, aware, and are prepared to call for the appropriate law-enforcement help, that they begin to realise also how much power they have and how they can use it productively to protect themselves.

Our first duty is to be receptive and to become informed, through reading newspapers and watching television if we’re more affluent, or through listening to that most far-reaching and influential medium of communication, the radio. Our next is to understand how very much better the police would do if they were to receive unstinting public co-operation, and resolve to provide them with information whenever possible.

We’d already been inspired by the recent example of South African people power that prevented Chinese armaments destined for Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe from being off-loaded here. The Montrose arrests provide another instance of the same, closer to home. Let’s hope that this will be an inspiration to many city residents to become alert, informed and willing to co-operate with police. We need not be helpless victims at the mercy of audacious criminals. We can show that we’re able to put our wits to work to foil those who would prey on us, and to return peace and security to the places we live in.

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