Coping with Crime

Cape Times (South Africa), February 2, 2009 | Go to article overview

Coping with Crime


To judge by Mbhazima Shilowa's remarks in the Cape Times (January 26), an election victory by the Congress of the People would not do much to cut crime. South African politicians don't seem to understand the basic problems of fighting the crime wave.

Providing better detection and so forth is all very necessary, but it is essentially reactive rather than pro-active. The first priority should be on preventing criminal acts, not solving them after they have taken place.

This seems to be a no-brainer, especially in a country where gratuitous violence - murdering someone merely for a cellphone or a pair of shoes, say - is now so commonplace that it is deemed hardly worth mentioning.

Catching such perpetrators might be good for the crime statistics, but the victim is still dead, with all that might imply for the family.

The obvious conclusion is that what is needed is a separate patrol force, such as the gendarmeries or constabularies which are common in many European and other countries. Their main task is to supply the "visible policing" and "zero tolerance" everyone talks about without, it seems, any conception of what such concepts mean or require.

Visible policing and zero tolerance can only be applied by dominating an area, city or region with patrols which are not only in place to observe any crime, but can take instant preliminary action. To try to do this with the available police assets is absurd.

The gendarmerie system was actually applied in this country, and very successfully, up to the early years of this century. …

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