A criminological exploration of community policing forums in Durban, South Africa : a study based on Glenwood Suburb and Cato Manor Township.
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Crime continues to be a serious problem in South Africa, as the country ranks 3rd on the global crime index as at 2016. The damaging impact of crime on the safety and security of communities, peace and stability in the country as well as its effect on the country’s reputation among potential international tourists and investors, and how all these affect the general quality of life of ordinary citizens need no emphasis. Crime solutions that work, and are cost effective remain elusive. However, due to its success in reducing crime rates in different parts of the world since its introduction in the United States of America during the 1970s, community policing is now a standard ideological and policy model guiding mission statements, goals, and reform programs of most policing agencies across the world. Regardless of its enviable status in the practicing of policing, more than twenty (20) years after the attainment of democracy, the question beckons whether the inception of community policing and particularly community policing forums is an effective strategy within the South African communities to combat and prevent crime. This thesis draws from three theories namely normative sponsorship (Tiedke et al.et al. 1975), broken windows (Wilson & Kelling, 1997) and social resource (Wong, 2008) theories to explore the understanding, organization and challenges of community policing forums (CPFs) in two dissimilar suburban areas in Durban. The aim is to gain a qualitative understanding of its challenges in order to find ways in which community policing as an enviable crime prevention strategy can be improved to make communities safer. The findings collected through focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews with a total number of fifty-five (55) participants comprising of South African Police Service (SAPS) and CPFs representatives, political leaders and ordinary members of the two communities suggest limited knowledge of and affinity to CPFs by community members. This owes partly to lack of communication, resources, trust, as well as political interference and SAPS organisational culture, which affect the functioning of these CPFs. A comparative analysis between the two areas noted differences in participation by the youth, police, and community members as well as their remuneration. Together, these findings suggest that more effort is needed from both the community and the police for an effective functioning of the CPFs. While the findings may be limited to the present case study areas, they indicate that an effective implementation of CPFs in resource-constrained and relatively affluent areas in South Africa demands more attention. There is no doubt that this insight might be usefully adapted to maximize CPFs in a related context in and beyond South Africa. Conceptually, the findings demonstrate that if the fight against crime is to have any meaning, it is essential that community policing, especially CPFs be thoroughly understood. This is particularly important in the South African context because community policing without a clear focus on crime risk factors generally has no effect on crime. These risk factors include the so-called “root causes” of crime. This study ends by pointing to understanding community policing outside cultural contexts as the other important area that warrant further inquiry to address challenges of CPFs that compromise effective crime prevention.