20 December 2012
South Africa’s Crime Line, a groundbreaking initiative that allows members of the public to make anonymous SMS tip-offs on suspected crimes at any time of the day, has led to more than 3 000 arrests and more than R41-million in seizures of stolen and counterfeit goods and drugs in the five years since its launch.
“Since our launch in 2007, Crime Line has made incredible strides in giving voice to the millions of South Africans out there by giving them a platform to blow the whistle on crime anonymously,” Crime Line head Yusuf Abramjee said ahead of the service’s fifth anniversary in July.
“Five years is a landmark for us, and we will continue to grow the service, with exciting developments planned for the future.”
The South African Police Service (SAPS) is fully behind the initiative.
“We are proud to be involved in a public-private partnership that encourages whistle- blowing and allows for communities to become our eyes and ears in the fight against crime,” said Brigadier Lindela Mashigo of the SAPS national media centre. “The police are committed to further growing the partnership.”
Crime Line has been instrumental in the arrests of some of the country’s most wanted criminals, including murderers, rapists, car hijackers and ATM bombers.
“It’s not enough,” Abramjee said. “This figure is far too low. We need more tip-offs from the community. I want to say to the public of South Africa: don’t be scared, break your silence and let’s retake our streets.”
Public-private partnership in action
Crime Line was launched in June 2007 by advertising and media company Primedia Limited, with full backing from the SAPS. Information received through Crime Line is passed on to the police, who act promptly on the information and give regular public feedback on the progress of the initiative.
SMSs to the number – 32211 – cost R1 each, and can be sent 24 hours a day. Tip- offs can also be sent electronically via www.crimeline.co.za.
The number is not a crime emergency line, and people who witness a crime or are a victim of a crime should still call 10111 or their nearest police station.
The Crime Line data centre protects the privacy of those who forward information, allowing South Africans to contribute towards the fight against crime in the country without fear of being questioned by law enforcement authorities or of alerting those they report against.
Primedia has invested millions of rands in the project to mobilise South Africans in the fight against crime, in a move hailed as a practical example of public-private partnerships in action.
Crime Stoppers International
In November 2008, on the basis of Crime Line’s success, South Africa became the first African country to be awarded a seat on the board of directors of international umbrella organisation Crime Stoppers International (CSI).
CSI vice-president Michael Gordon-Gibson said at the time that CSI had already made a “paradigm shift, thanks to South Africa’s Crime Line.
“Before, Crimestoppers was tied to the telephone, but Crime Line has shown us the value of using the media-of-choice: an sms. It’s been incredibly effective in getting information through to law enforcement in South Africa, and that was where the intelligence gap was for us in the UK and elsewhere,” Gordon-Gibson said.
“We were hearing from older people who used telephones, but hadn’t tapped the youth until we started using secure online reporting and safe SMS’s. This has opened up a huge demographic to the police, who are supplying information that they’ve never had before.”
Breaking the silence
According to Abramjee, feedback from security stakeholders indicated that the public had lacked a “user-friendly platform” to enable them to blow the whistle on crime at their comfort. This is where Crime Line fits in.
“We see ourselves as an independent conduit between the public and the authorities, so that the public can have the greater confidence that they can participate in the fight against crime without any reprisals or disruptions to their daily lives,” he said when Crime Line was first launched.
The campaign’s message is simple: “If you have any information about criminals – be they murderers, rapists, robbers, hijackers, burglars, drug dealers, gangsters, child abusers, fraudsters, smash and grabbers or petty criminals – let us know and we will get the police to act.
“This is not a forum to whinge about crime or make hoax calls. It is aimed at helping the authorities catch criminals.”
The campaign is in line with the government’s call for the public to break their silence on crime, Abramjee said. “Our campaign breaks the barriers by giving people the opportunity to provide information without directly speaking to the police.”
SAinfo reporter and SANews.gov.za