SAPS calls on communities to protect children

Friday, June 5, 2015

Pretoria – The South African Police Service (SAPS) has called on communities to work together with the police to keep children safe and for parents to be more vigilant when it comes to their children’s whereabouts and activities.

The call comes as South Africa marks Child Protection Week between 31 May and 7 June. This is an annual government campaign to raise awareness of the rights of children.

“As SAPS, we are committed to ensuring the safety of our children. It is important that parents, family members, teachers and community leaders are familiar with the role that they play in exposing any suspected child abuse or exploitation,” said Major General Yvonne Botsheleng of the National Head of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit.

She said it is crucial for all these role players to also educate children on their safety. “It takes a village to raise a child, it is the whole community’s responsibility to take ownership of ensuring the safety of our children.”

Botsheleng said capacity in her unit has been increased to combat crimes against children and there are several community programmes the SAPS is participating in to raise awareness of violence against children.

The Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit was re-launched in 2010 after being absorbed into the greater police service in 2006. It has since doubled its resources and now has 176 units and close to 2 500 members nationwide.

In addition, the unit employs a network of highly skilled forensic social workers to assist with assessment of abused children and the compilation of court reports as well as providing an expert testimony in court.

The unit is involved in the policing of sexual offences against children, person-directed crimes (where the family is involved), illegal removal of children under 12 and electronic media facilitated crime.

Two current areas of particular concern are child pornography and sexual offences. “Over half of all crimes against children that are reported involved sexual offences,” Botsheleng said.

And this, according to Botshelong, is being exacerbated by the proliferation of electronic media for the transmission of child pornography.

However, there had been a decrease in the number of reported cases and a strong conviction record against perpetrators. 

According to official statistics, crime against children has decreased year on year from 48 718 reported cases for the 2012/2013 fiscal year to 45 230 for the 2013/2014 fiscal.

The conviction rate is up to 75%, and since the re-establishment of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit in 2010, the unit has secured over 1 832 life sentences for heinous crimes against women and children.

“We can’t, as the police alone stop violence against children. We need to come together as a society to protect the future of this country,” added Botsheleng.

Tips for keeping children safe

Botsheleng said parents can safeguard their children by always being aware of their children’s whereabouts and ensuring they have adequate parental supervision at all times. Many incidents occur while children are outside playing and parents are inside.

Also, keep a close eye on a child’s cell phone and Internet usage and who they’re communicating with; do a background check on any child minder that you employ and ensure that any day care facilities you send your children to are registered and if you can’t fetch your children from school, make sure the teachers are aware of who will be collecting them.

If abuse is happening within the family unit, don’t ignore it or try and manage it internally, reach out for professional help from the SAPS or the various child protection institutions.

Children are also advised to be honest to their parents so that they can help them or pick it up easily in case of any form of abuse

Parents are also encouraged to know and understand their children, talk openly to them about abuse and their protection

Any suspected child abuse, neglect or exploitation, can be reported at crime stop on 08600 10 111 or SMS Crime Line: 32211.

The Department of Social Development has a 24-hour call centre dedicated to providing support and counselling to victims of violence. 

The toll free number to call is 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV) to speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling. 

Callers can also request a social worker to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from any cell phone. –