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The effects of cutting down on community safety and security costs during the Covid-19 Lockdown

The effects of cutting down on community safety and security costs during the Covid-19 Lockdown

LOCKDOWN AND COMMUNITY DISMANTLING 2020-05-07 Since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown there is no doubt that crime figures are down, but so are people’s energy levels and the ability to plan for their future. Social distancing and staying at home has also reduced alarm monitoring needs and created the perception that armed response and

LOCKDOWN AND COMMUNITY DISMANTLING

2020-05-07

Since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown there is no doubt that crime figures are down, but so are people’s energy levels and the ability to plan for their future.

Social distancing and staying at home has also reduced alarm monitoring needs and created the perception that armed response and community investment safety and security initiatives are no longer a priority. This is, however, not true.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SECURITY NETWORKS

We must be extremely careful about how we manage this situation as community leaders, because building security networks and structures takes years of work, but can come apart in a very short space of time, and this further leads to “community dismantling”. Even worse is the further polarisation and segmentation of urban and rural areas into silo operations, with a lack of understanding that all structures are codependent on one another, and this community collaboration is what leads to the achievement of crime reduction targets as a nation.

We see this often, particularly with urban residents who view farm murders as something shocking but having no direct effect on them; and farmers having no idea how many urban-based murders there are. In fact, it is more dangerous to live in Westville, Chatsworth or Durban North according to murder and rape statistics than it is to live on a farm in KZN, but the reality is murder and rape are unthinkable no matter where you live. Every sector of community and industry needs a purpose-designed crime reduction plan as well as full acknowledgement of the challenges at hand. Some easy examples of this are cash-in-transit robberies, complex security, residential homes, and the loud cry from farmers for more assistance with security. There is no such thing as “one size fits all”. 

CRIME STATISTICS

Regarding crime statistics – on one hand, we have community crime reduction targets and on the other victim empowerment and support. You can’t tell a murder victim that things are getting better and crime is down; in fact, that’s a very hurtful thing to say. What you can say in operational forums and public discussions is that while we are winning the war, the magic number is always going to be zero. It is difficult for me to measure the collective collaboration efforts and investments from everyone in KZN farm murder investigations, but at Together SA CAN we set a target of reducing farm murders by 50%, through collaboration, and it has taken almost 10 years to achieve this goal. We now sit at 3 to 5 murders a year when previously we were at 10. In fact, we are at a point where we now know that they are almost totally relationship-driven murders with the victims and perpetrators knowing one another, and for this reason we are turning our attention to investigating this aspect and getting closer to the motives and reasons that drive these crimes. 

COMMUNITY STRUCTURES

AfriForum has gained the most amount of traction and support by implementing “community safety structures” for all land areas of South Africa, which we are able to tap into and embrace.

Most community structures work on a three-year cycle, and any kind of disruption, be it in-house politics, rivalry amongst members, spreading of rumours, financial problems, lack of vision, adoption or drive toward collaboration, means that in policing that community is lost for a three year period.Community structures and private security services either assist in crime reduction targets or become part of the problem and consume valuable policing hours.

Regardless, as a nation, we simply cannot afford to allow any of the extreme consequences of lockdown to create an environment for community safety dismantling or subconscious “donor fatigue”. We must come up with a far more robust plan that serves us as a community for the long term and is not just about COVID-19 but rather ongoing crime reduction strategies. We also need to hold the line on the incredible results achieved thus far in crime reduction due to the national lockdown, which of course, will not last forever. 

We need to recognise which safety and security structures are assets to policing and have served our nation and their members well because we can’t be all things to all men, nor do we have the necessary “trust bridges” in each sector. In this regard, we have just started launching PSAP’s (Public Safety Answering Points), the best example of this kind of functioning PSAP model is Greytown 911 in KZN, a front-facing, localised operations centre fully trusted and supported by the community. 

The difference with our PSAP’s would be our patented IMICS (Incident Management and Information Capturing System) platform and multi-agency approach that provides full case management and integration with all other centres in order to collaborate and track each and every case type of which we have reverse-engineered over 400. This is further supported by the dispatcher training program to support IMICS and a multi-agency integrated approach in dealing with cases. 

AfriForum 911 leads the way with their national call centre, supported by 153 community safety structures and 143 individual branches, each supported by the IMICS (Incident Management and Information Capturing System) platform, their members, and an operations base of some 10,000 community patrollers. In turn, the AfriForum 911 AAA-Response App sits in the hands of their members, and the VCAT-7 Operatives App in the hands of their community patrollers. It is just unreal to see the technology being applied and the teamwork that this organisation has within the community safety structure. The wider IMICS Platform includes 960 other community safety structures such as Spar and Mondi, with the overall platform making up an approximate 380,000 strong user-base supporting policing efforts. 

We have various financial options ranging from R2.50 to R250 per user, depending on the service, technology and customised solutions adopted by users and corporate clients alike.  NPO funded users which make up a large portion of our user base are predominantly supported through government services for murder, rape, missing children and vehicle accidents. 

This network of users support Project Mustard Seed, an initiative on behalf of our members which in turn supports the SAPS, the Hawks and Crime Intelligence to go for the jugular on the most violent crimes in South Africa.  This year is our 17th year of doing exactly what we were asked by our Government, which was to answer the call to community action. This saw the establishment of our own Community Action NetworkTogether SA CAN NPO

FINAL WORD

Leaders in the safety and security sector, I wish you my heart and soul best in your daily efforts.. In a week or so we will let the public know our organisation’s way forward in response to Government’s call to stand together during this challenging time and do everything possible to save employee jobs, as we adjust accordingly to the situation at hand and see out the following months through the economic winter into spring. 

At this stage, we are aiming to hold the line both financially and in operations but we are now seeing the cancellations start to flow in and we will soon be able to gauge the trajectory of this. We are certainly seeing and hearing how various role-players are already under pressure as the recent article from MyBroadband illustrates (“Crime remains a reality” – But demand for private security decreases during lockdown” available at: https://mybroadband.co.za/news/security/348117-crime-remains-a-reality-but-demand-for-private-security-decreases-during-lockdown.html

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