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Article029 - Partnership in Crime Prevention
A thought provoking article on the partnership in Crime Prevention - by Steve Clark

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Partnership in Crime Fighting
15 years ago, the National Police, the SAP abandoned the idea of fighting crime in isolation, and the plan of “Community Policing” was born. Community Policing is basically an international philosophy of policing where the Police, in our case the SAPS, involve all community entities in their efforts to address crime. Essentially, as the logo of the Community Policing Forum states, it is a partnership in policing.

A partnership cannot be 70-30 or 80-20. It HAS to be 50-50.
In our case, 50% by the Police, and 50% by the community: You.
I will be the first to say that the Police need to beef up their share, but that is something for our bosses to address. Just know that there are an extremely large percentage of dedicated policemen out there who take their jobs seriously and are committed to their work.

If I have to put one word as to why 99% of crime happens, that word would be complacency.
I have stated frequently that on occasions I have walked unimpeded into peoples’ houses.
Confronted, the people say, “Oh, I was just….” or blame the kids or anyone except themselves. Criminals don’t care about “just”. They see the opportunity and take it. Similarly, we often talk about burglar guards. I can bet that a majority of houses in Westville still have the thin round bar guards that are attached to wooden window frames by 2cm long screws. The same state as when you bought the house however long ago. Why does it surprise anybody when a criminal manages by superhuman strength to pull the bars off the window frame and bend them to gain access to your home?

Sometimes I’m asked, “How is crime in Westville?”
I answer that there is NO crime in Westville. The person is unsure whether I am joking and press me for more. I tell them that if crime was so bad and so prevalent as it is made out in in the news and around the braai or book club, I should never be able to walk into peoples’ homes without so much as a pot plant to step over. 

What I am driving at is for everyone to start stepping up their levels of alertness and take a critical inward look at your safety systems and security. We need to start thinking like a criminal. (A scary thought: If you wanted to hijack yourself tonight, how and where would you do it?)
If we think like this, we will start noticing our vulnerabilities and then we can make a critical assessment of our situation and put an educated plan in place to reduce the risk. Of course, if necessary, ask for help. I get really cross when I have had people tell me that they won’t ask because they don’t trust us, meaning the Police. Those people need to get their minds in gear and decide what they want. Whatever their profession, I will also quote horror stories about corruption or unprofessional behaviour. Stop making excuses.

This is not designed to insult you or make you or paranoid. It is the idea to actually empower you to do something positive to not allow crime to get to you. To use an old saying: Don’t be the weak link in the chain. The criminal will follow the path of least resistance. Do I need to mention the open doors factor again to illustrate this?

So, what can you and I do to start moving in a positive direction in reducing crime? Take the “VICTIM” sign off from around your neck. You are not a sardine waiting to be guzzled up by a shark. You can think and plan and take precautions that will ensure your longevity.
You need to start being suspicious. And act on those suspicions. Rely on your natural intuition and be a responsible citizen. Report suspects. Don’t have the attitude of: the police won’t do anything anyway or I don’t want to wait on hold. If you do not make the call, do not blame anyone but yourself if that person commits a crime, God forbid injures or kills someone.

I have had many occasions where people have demanded to know where the police were at a particular incident, that is, why we didn’t arrive. I ask back, who phoned the police? I have the exact same set of senses you have. If I do not receive information via those senses, I cannot respond. Do not take for granted that SOMEBODY will make the call. Take responsibility, and do it yourself.

Personally, I do not like to talk in statistics. They are cold, impersonal numbers. Especially for you who have already been victims, try think of human lives and families that are affected. If we (and I mean the Police and Security Companies as well) take it that seriously then we will act appropriately when the time comes.

We are all creatures of habit. But, we need to change our bad habits which could endanger us and change them into good habits that keep us alert and proactive. One habit that might not sound like a habit is changing your routines. It takes a criminal one day to learn that you leave home a certain time, you drive a certain route, get to work a certain time, park in the same space etc. There will always be something in your life you can change periodically to keep your mind sharp and be less of an easy target. 

In the military we were taught “skirmishing”. This is a foot attack where waves of soldiers advance on a target. One group runs while the other takes cover and fires, then takes its turn running. When running up to a position, we were taught not to run in a straight line. Why? Well it’s easier to shoot someone running in a straight line. If you are dodging left, right, changing speed, ducking and moving, you are a hard target. This is the essence. You must become a harder target. Remember the line of least resistance?

This element can be applied to every aspect of your life. Let’s use your car as an example. If you put the gear lock on, arm the alarm, make sure all the doors are locked, valuables are out of sight and in the worst case scenario, your Tracker payments are up to date, how hard are you making it for a crook to break into or steal that vehicle? Remember I spoke of your 50% share in crime prevention. Each thing you put in place to prevent the crime is a percentage adding up to that total.
If you apply that to your home, workplace and even when you are walking in the Pavilion, the harder the target you make yourself, the less vulnerable you are and less likely you are to be a victim. That is very empowering. By taking these small actions and putting plans in place you will feel and be safer. A quote: “Don’t seek fault, seek remedy.”

Instead of blaming your neighbours, the government or the police for crime, rather ask yourself what you are doing to prevent it. If that philosophy is spread from person to person and is made into action, I can never ever talk about complacency again.

In any situation; your car, home, work or even on foot, a good practice is to imagine “safety bubbles” around you. As an example, the nearest anyone should be to you is one arm’s length away. (Use example) Can this person hurt me? Can he steal anything off my body? This bubble can extend as far away as is necessary. The bubble can be just space, or actual physical barriers such as gates, walls, fences, etc. Anything inside is a potential threat. If you can visualise, be aware of and use the “barriers” around you, nobody can commit a crime against you. 
In a building, the bubble is the four walls. Then you move out to the boundary fence, then the street outside.
Start judging the potential threats and what IMMEDIATE danger they are to you.

Just as an example let’s look at your workplace. How secure is your access control. Are you willing to have your LIFE in the hands of a couple of unarmed guards earning R3000 a month? Do they really care if you live or die or have your belongings stolen? Are they held accountable?
If your answer is no to any of these questions, then, you have to do something yourselves to improve matters. What? 
How are visitors vetted?
What areas do visitors have access to?
Do you leave valuables lying around? (Cell phones, laptops)
How do you let contractors or other workmen into your offices?
How are they identified?
What are they allowed to bring in?
Who checks them when they leave?

All these things stem from “good habits” and making you and your colleagues a harder target.
You might have an excellent chain, but it will break at the weakest link. If one of your colleagues drops his or her guard or is slack, or there is a gap in the security procedures, this may endanger everyone.

A good start is setting up small procedures or fall safes in case of an emergency. These can be for home, work or even in the car. Do your children know what to do if you have an accident? By preparing for most eventualities effectively, you empower yourself and can be content to lead a happy life free from fear or worry.

It’s your life, take it seriously.