Point community members' perceptions of South African Police Service prevention strategies for the illicit trafficking of marijuana in the Point area, Durban.
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The study was conducted to illuminate Point community members’ perceptions of the South African Police Service (SAPS) strategies that are employed in preventing the illicit trafficking of marijuana in the Point area in Durban, South Africa. The study employed a qualitative methodology using a descriptive-interpretive/hermeneutics research approach. This approach was deemed the most appropriate research style to address the research questions. The data were collected by conducting semi-structured interviews in conjunction with participant observation. People holding the following designations agreed to participate in this study: the SAPS Point Police Station Commander; the SAPS Point Crime Prevention Station Commander; an experienced senior legal representative; a senior State prosecutor; a community leader residing in the Point area; two Point business owners; two ordinary community members residing in the Point area; three members of the SAPS Point Community Policing Forum (PCPF); and a leader of the SAPS PCPF. All the research participants responded to semi-structured interview questions. These responses provided thick data that revealed Point community members’ perceptions of SAPS prevention strategies for the illicit trafficking of marijuana in the area. Three sampling techniques were employed in this study, namely purposive sampling, convenient sampling and snowball sampling. The process of data analysis was achieved by identifying themes and categories. The interview questions established ten themes in response to the measuring instrument, and broader research questions. The findings indicated that marijuana was predominantly sold in tiny plastic bags by many street drug runners in the Point area. The study also found that people who consumed marijuana (also known, and referred to in this study, as ‘dagga’ or ‘cannabis’) and other illicit drugs handed the required amount of money to street drug runners inside take-away outlets or at any other assumed appropriate venue. The drugs were collected from where they had been placed in garbage bins or garbage plastic bags along any street chosen by the drug runner. It was also revealed that street drug runners in Point would not carry any illicit drugs such as cannabis on them while selling illegal substances. The extent of marijuana trafficking in the Point area was seen as substantial and the Point community was negatively overwhelmed by the illicit trafficking of cannabis. The following were identified as SAPS strategies for the prevention of the illicit trafficking of marijuana in the Point area: (a) consistent door-to-door campaigns concerning the effects that emanate from the abuse of dagga and other illicit drugs such as heroin, crack cocaine, ecstasy, mandrax, woonga, and/or nyaope; and (b) joint field operations conducted by Point SAPS police officials and SAPS police officials from other police stations. Point SAPS officials also conducted joint field operations with private security companies and the PCPF; (c) roadblocks; (d) patrols; (e) cordon and search operations; and (f) undercover operations. In addition, the study found that the rates of cannabis and alcohol abuse by young people were excessively high in the Point area. All the respondents felt that that SAPS strategies to curtail the use of illicit drugs in this area were relatively effective. However, it was commented that the illegal occupation of buildings in Point by slum landlords and tenants who allegedly trafficked in illicit drugs (with particular reference to cannabis) was an obstacle. The respondents argued that it would be impossible to effectively prevent the illicit trafficking of marijuana and other illicit drugs in this area. However, it was revealed that Point SAPS officials did not always use the same preventive strategy, and that different strategies were often employed in combination so as to prevent, curb, or circumvent the criminal activities of offenders. SAPS Point police officials neither followed up on unsolved cases nor on persons who were suspected of participating in organised criminal activities, with specific reference to trafficking in cannabis. Finally, the study found that visible policing in Point to some degree prevented the illicit trafficking of marijuana and other illicit drugs and that it also enhanced the formation of partnerships between the police and the community.