Pretoria - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has called on police officers to go beyond the call of duty in order to protect children.
In his message to police during Child Protection Week, which began on Sunday, Mthethwa stressed the importance of protecting and caring for children through the year.
"Police must play a prominent role by ensuring they treat victims of crime with respect, ensure statements are correctly taken and not only arrest the perpetrators, but conduct good investigations to secure harsher convictions," he said.
The minister's call echoes President Jacob Zuma's request for communities to work with law
enforcement agencies to prevent child abuse by proactively reporting suspicious behaviour.
To ensure that police officers were constantly trained, SAPS has a victim empowerment learning programme included in their annual funded in-service training programme, he noted.
Specific victim support content was also included in the in-service training learning programme for domestic violence and sexual offences.
"We are also prioritising specialised training for investigators of sexual offences to ensure that we move beyond arrest but secure harsher convictions. A total of 17 314 out of 21 100 detectives are trained in detective related courses. A further 2161 detectives will be trained on the basic detective course during the 2012/2013 financial year," he added.
Mthethwa stressed the importance of taking statements correctly - saying that such a process had an impact on the outcome and conclusion of a case.
He noted that the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units (FCS) have been reintroduced at all 176 SAPS clusters in the nine provinces.
There are currently 2 155 detectives at these units and with 1 276 vehicles. Previously, the FCS Units consisted of only 1 864 detectives. An additional amount of R49.5 million was allocated to capacitate the FCS units with resources.
To date, the FCS units have achieved over 363 life sentences, with a conviction rate of 73% for crimes against women above 18 years old and 70.04% for crimes against children under 18 years old.
"A total of 479 trained detectives that had been transferred to other components and divisions within SAPS in the past have been placed back in the detective services environment. Six courses for training of Detective Commanders in which 346 commanders were trained, was presented during the 2011/2012 financial year," he added.
Mthethwa also noted SAPS collaborated with the Department of Basic Education to implement preventative programmes in support of safer schools.
The aim of school-based crime prevention programmes is geared at making schools a safe and secure environment that was conducive to learning and free from violence and crime.
"In regard to sexual offences, prevention programmes in schools are also a focus of the interdepartmental team dealing with rape and sexual offences. Learners are encouraged to report any form of abuse to the SAPS. The focus however is to build resistance and resilience amongst learners to crime and violence and also from victimisation and offending behaviour," the minister said.