Playing our part

2008-08-20 00:00

“Law enforcers 3; criminals 0” ran a headline in yesterday’s Witness, and the stories covered included a foiled heist at Southgate Shopping Centre, the arrest of would-be car thieves in the city, and the apprehension in Ladysmith of a nine-man gang charged with possession of un-licensed firearms, armed robbery and theft. In each case members of the police, alerted by witnesses, swung swiftly and effectively into action. Let us hope that this excellent police work leads to similar judicial excellence, with trials conducted speedily and efficiently, followed immediately by convictions, leaving no loopholes permitting the contravention of bail conditions and the like.

The crimes involved — various forms of theft or robbery by armed men — provide a glimpse of the society in which we live and in which each of us in our own way attempts to avoid becoming a victim. The government is at last beginning to appreciate the damaging effect that unchecked crime will have on the economy and on the image of South Africa as the democratic powerhouse of the African continent, and is undertaking an overhaul of the entire judicial system to deal with this scourge.

We cannot, however, sit on our hands waiting for the state to produce a miracle — especially in view of the fact that police continue to be under-resourced and understaffed, struggling to keep their own heads above the tide of criminality. As the stories mentioned above show clearly, individuals — ordinary people who witness criminal activity or notice suspicious behaviour — can be of enormous assistance in getting criminals off the streets.

Few people these days are without a cellphone, and each of us should programme into that essential accessory the numbers of the various emergency services, including the flying squad, Crime Stop, the ambulance service and the fire brigade, all of whose numbers appear regularly in this newspaper and may be called anonymously if desired.

In other words, we should all resolve to engage with the crime problem, to be on the alert and, instead of turning a blind

eye to criminal behaviour, to be ready to report it. If everyone plays his or her part we can make a real and substantial difference and, in time, help make the country a safer place.

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