Police visibility reduces crime - expert

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pretoria - Police visibility is a deterrent of crime, says a senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS).

Crime and Justice Programme senior researcher, Dr Johan Burger, was reacting to President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address in which Zuma said the number of police would increase by 10 percent.

"We are implementing plans to increase the number of police men and women by 10 percent over the next three years," said Zuma.

The President added that government had identified the fight against hijacking, business and house robberies, as well as contact crimes such as murder, rape, and assault as top priorities.

Burger said reducing serious and violent crimes and ensuring that the justice system works efficiently would only be achieved by increasing police visibility on the streets.

He said Zuma's announcement was not something new as government had in the past few years set a target of employing 204 000 police by 2011/2012.

"This is a continuation of a programme that was developed some years ago and this is a good move as it will make the country one of the best in the world in terms of fighting crime.

"We must be excited about the increasing number of police personnel, but we must expect a more improved service in the investigation, detective and flying squad units," the researcher said.

Asked if the police ministry should use automatic integration in hiring police reservists, Burger said police reservists should be appointed on an individual assessment basis, a sentiment also shared by police ministry spokesperson Zweli Mnisi.

Mnisi told BuaNews that increasing police personnel will unfold in three phases which include an individual assessment of police reservists, recruitment of new police trainees and re-hiring former members who are still interested to be re-enlisted in the South African Police Service.

"With regard to the appointment of police reservists, we want to make it clear that there would be no automatic integration of police reservists into the SAPS, what will happen is that they will be assessed individually and those who meet the requirements will be taken to the police training college," he said.

Samson Mphilo deputy chairperson of the Makhado SAPS Community Policing Forum in Limpopo said although increasing the number of police is a good move, ten percent over the next three years was not enough.

"We thought maybe they will increase the number by 15 percent... however, ten percent is better than nothing," he said.

Business Against Crime South Africa (BACSA) said they supported the prioritisation of crimes such as hijacking, business and house robberies, as well as contact crimes such as murder, rape and assault.

CEO of BACSA, Dr Graham Wright said: "These actions, as well as plans to increase the number of police men and women by ten percent over the next three years, are welcomed as they will help to build confidence in the law enforcement agencies and the justice system as a whole."

South African Police Union (SAPU) president, Mpho Nkwinika said increasing the number of police is beside the point, as what is important is to have police officers with the capacity to effectively deal with criminal activities that are confronting the country.

"What is important is how you manage what is at your disposal best. If we are increasing the number of police, we need to ensure that the new recruits will provide effective and quality service to the people," he said.