Perceptions on Safety in High Crime Police Precincts of Gauteng Reveals Much

The fieldwork for the Perception survey on safety in high crime police precincts in Gauteng has recently been finished and a draft report handed to the Gauteng Department of Community Safety. Sedibeng sa Tsebo worked in partnership with AfricaScope to complete the fieldwork. One must thank the more than 50 interviewers and supervisors that did the fieldwork. They faced heavy rainfall throughout most of the fieldwork and in some instances very hostile communities.

Thanks must also go to the more than 3 000 citizens that spent up to 45 min participating in the interview. Many of the questions were open ended text questions that took time to think about and answer. We would like to assure you that your inputs were invaluable and provided incredible insights into the safety of people from across the socio-economic spectrum.

Sedibeng's field teams come across areas such as those in the adjacent photo in Hillbrow and Jeppe that had been occupied illegally by occupants with many of them being illegal immigrants. Our teams were warned by the SAPS and municipal officials that the fieldwork teams could not do interviews in these areas because of concerns for the safety of their lives. The sad fact is that there are many areas where the police and local authorities have surrendered control to criminal elements and consequently, these areas with their significant social problems may never be recoverable.

As a consequence, many suburbs have "taken the law" into their own hands by hardening their properties, employing security companies to patrol their areas and establishing neighbourhood watches. Security villages have been established all over Gauteng and especially in the high crime areas. Where the field teams had no problem doing interviews in the many township communities, they were escorted out of areas of Johannesburg and in many of the suburbs were told they could not enter the area. The reason given is that there are people with similar neon yellow bibs, such as those worn by our interviewers, that were robbing houses. Although fieldwork protocols were followed that included providing a letter of introduction, engaging with police station officials, ward councillors and municipal officials, it became apparent that without effective and sustained communication fieldwork in many areas of Gauteng can not be done.

Even though this study faced significant challenges, very meaningful results were obtained and insights given by the citizens of Gauteng that were interviewed. These results and messages from the citizens are contained in a comprehensive report presently before the Gauteng Department of Community Safety. The citizens have given their perceptions. It is now the responsibility of the Gauteng government to give feedback on the survey results and to develop interventions that will improve the safety of people in the province.

People are tired of the high crime levels. They want the police to do their jobs. Many citizens are totally reliant on the police to provide them with protection. They need them to implement appropriate interventions to deal with the high levels of unemployment and crime. Most people are of the belief that government can make a difference.