‘Run them over!’: Local crime spotter network on Facebook attracts calls for vigilantism

2011-08-10 00:00

“SHOOT to kill the bastards.” “Run the bastards over.” “Give those criminals what they deserve.”

These are not quotes from National Commissioner of Police Bheki Cele, but users of a local Facebook crime-spotting group, which began in June.

The idea behind the Hilton-Pietermaritzburg-Howick Crime Spotter group is to track criminal activity and share safety tips among its users, The Witness reported last month.

Membership has doubled to nearly 3 000 in two-and-a-half weeks. Locals show great interest in fighting crime and the site has drawn widespread acclaim in its aim to make communities safer.

Trevor Pankhurst said that “thanks to this page we can become more aware and maybe help”. Kristie Jade Greene said the site helps her to “stay informed”. But user Jenny Hibbert Acutt comments, “Jeez we not safe behind locked doors nowadays”.

Whether knowledge is indeed power or whether the site is a resource for fear-mongering remains to be seen. There is regular mention of race and calls for vigilantism are supported.

One post described a car, deemed suspicious, and divulged its registration number and the name of the owner and his address.

Bronwin-Gail Malamatas said she was “almost scammed at Spar Mkondeni” at an ATM. Moreen Hulley responded: “… does anyone know if there is a camera there?” Three males were reportedly “jumping in front of vehicles on the corner of Commercial and Boom” on Monday. Natalie Botha Marcovich responded “Ride them over”. Cameron MacFarlane said, “I have been wanting to test my Bullbar!!!”

Linda van der Merwe was more circumspect: “Run the bastards over. But then on the other hand you pay for their medical expenses plus they slap you with a lawsuit.”

The founder of the crime spotter group said racism, aggressive language and calls for violence are not welcome on the site. and wants people to “keep statuses relevant”.

Racism, aggressive language and calls to violence are not welcome on the site she said.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeeven said any positive initiatives aimed at fighting crime are welcome, but called for the organisers to contact the police.

As for fear-mongering and racial prejudice, Jeevan said, the police want to “keep away from that kind of publicity”.

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