Safety and Security

Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Policy

In order for people to be free, and to pursue the lives they wish to live, they must live in a safe and secure environment. This means that they are free from the constant fear that harm may be done to themselves, their loved ones, and their property. Furthermore, all in South Africa should feel confident that in the limited chance that such harm does occur, the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

High levels of crime, in particular violent crime, and sometimes committed by the police themselves, has severely diminished public trust in law enforcement and other criminal justice institutions. On average, approximately 1 death per day is a result of police misconduct. Police are not the first port of call when people are in distress and often, they are not a port of call at all, as many crimes go unreported. One of the consequences is increasing vigilantism, in response to helplessness in the face of high crime rates and the ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system.

Violence and crime, especially of the magnitude and severity experienced in South Africa is not a given. We can, and must, create a society in which far fewer crimes are committed in the first place. This can only be achieved through serious political commitment to crime prevention by addressing the socio-economic foundations of crime and recidivism, as well as ensuring that there are effective deterrence measures which keep the chance of being apprehended high, because we know that is what criminals fear most.

However, even when crime prevention strategies are relatively successful, there will be some crime and thus the need for effective law enforcement. Law enforcement plays a particularly crucial role in South Africa because crime prevention has not been implemented with success and therefore there are many crimes to contend with. And there will continue to be, until we get crime prevention right.

South Africa’s law enforcement institutions are broken. Corrupt politicians and criminals break the law with impunity safe in the knowledge that the independence of institutions has been compromised, and that outdated systems and methods, lack of capacity, poor training, and other challenges have weakened the state’s ability to identify, arrest, and convict criminals. Furthermore, the cycle of criminality is primed to repeat itself because of a sentencing regime that contributes to the overcrowding of prisons which in turn have become breeding and training grounds for criminals instead of supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of past offenders into society.

The heavy price for this state of affairs is paid most by victims of crime who are often left with unanswered questions, trauma, and a lack of closure.

In the pursuit of our vision of a safe and secure society for all, this criminal justice policy has the following three objectives:

  1. Crime prevention: Ensure that crime does not occur or recur.
  2. Effective law enforcement: Create and maintain robust law enforcement institutions capable of ensuring that people are held responsible for the crimes they commit and are given opportunities to become law- abiding members of society.
  3. Support and accountability to victims of crime: The criminal justice system must make victims of crime a central focus and ensure that there are adequate structures or avenues to support and exercise accountability to victims of crime.

To attain the above objectives, various policy solutions are proposed. Key proposals include:

  • A whole of society and whole of government approach to address the socio-economic drivers of crime as the police cannot achieve prevention alone and should probably not take the lead on it
  • A well-funded crime prevention strategy
  • School-based interventions for identifying and supporting at-risk youth
  • Policing resources must be allocated to areas with greater crime prevalence as opposed to resourcing calculations based on levels of reported crime which may be inaccurate.
  • Use of evidence-based policing and technology, which in some cases may even reduce the need to have more ‘boots’ on the ground
  • Ensure the independence of various institutions such as IPID, NPA, Hawks, and the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services by ensuring they report directly to parliament and/or have a separate budget that is as free as possible from political interference
  • Put an end to excessive use of force and abuse of powers by police by ensuring that a “use of force” policy is adopted for the SAPS POP units. This policy must have, as a founding principle, the protection of and respect for human life.
    In addition, to explore the use of body cameras to monitor police-public interactions
  • Devolution of policing policy and operations to the appropriate sphere of government.
  • Ensure judicial independence by setting clear and public selection criteria, clarifying the role of members of the JSC as well as the Chair, and reducing the number of politicians on the JSC.
  • Introduce a sentencing framework which articulates public policy goals for sentencing including restorative justice, evidence-based practice, and imprisonment as a last resort option and principally for violent crime so that the criminals who are a danger to society are locked up while ensuring petty offenders are not hardened and recruited to more sophisticated crime.
  • Ensure SAPS and the NPA provide feedback and progress on investigations and prosecutions to victims.

This policy aligns with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 as it aims to create a peaceful and inclusive society which can fuel sustainable economic and social development in South Africa, ensure access by all to an effective and efficient justice system and establishing institutions that are responsive, accountable, and inclusive.

Find a summary of our criminal justice policy here.

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