The business of beating crime

10 July 2006

Public-private partnerships are playing a major role in turning South Africa’s crime situation around, according to a special survey of the country in the 8 April 2006 issue of The Economist.

Singled out for special mention by The Economist is Business Against Crime South Africa, the organisation that pioneered a successful model, combining private sector know-how with a mixture of private and public money, of combating crime in the country.

Go to the Business Against Crime website Formed in 1996 at the behest of former president Nelson Mandela, Business Against Crime (BAC) supports the government’s crime-fighting initiatives by harnessing the skills and resources of the country’s business community.

The organisation, a not-for-profit body funded primarily by the business sector, is still best known for its role in dramatically cutting street crime in Johannesburg’s central business district – by setting up closed-circuit TV surveillance cameras following the success of a similar scheme in Cape Town.

Oiling the wheels of justice
Mission accomplished, Business Against Crime left others to run this project, and applied its model to other parts of South Africa’s criminal justice system, such as the slow processing of criminal cases.

According to The Economist, the BAC “spent R31-million over several years on getting outside experts to analyse the flow of cases, from the initial reporting of an incident in a police station to the arrival (or not) of the case in court.

“On the basis of this research, the government spent about R2-billion on reforming the whole system. Perhaps partly as a result, conviction rates – a dismal 8% in 2000 – are beginning to creep up.”

Management training for police
Another major BAC project involves management training in South Africa’s police stations. In pilot projects in the provinces of Mpumalanga and Gauteng, over 200 policemen and women from 28 police stations received training in 2005.

And according to the BAC, the country’s business sector has donated an effective R88-million for developing a leadership development programme for senior station managers and implementing the programme between 2006 and 2008.

Commercial courts
Business Against Crime, together with the South African Banks Risk Information Centre, has also tackled commercial crime, establishing four specialised commercial courts in Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria – with two more to come, in Bloemfontein and Cape Town, in 2006.

Staffed by specialists to convict the guilty quickly and efficiently and secure appropriate sentences, the commercial courts boast an average 97% to 98% conviction rate, and have cut the case processing time for commercial crimes in the country by half, from 30 months in 1999 to 14 months in 2005.

Tackling trade in stolen goods
When it came to tackling organised crime involving large syndicates, the BAC shifted its approach, taking steps to help remove the commercial benefit in the trade of stolen goods – in the first place, vehicles, cellphones and copper cable.

Improved business processes within the government’s vehicle management system have helped to root out fraud and corruption and, according to the BAC, contributed to a 30% reduction in hijackings in Gauteng province in 2005/06.

Business Against Crime is also helping to facilitate:

  • the introduction of improved vehicle identity measures such as microdotting;
  • a better co-ordinated approach to “chop shop” disruption operations, supported by new legislation in the form of the Second-Hand Goods Act; and
  • greater control over the movement of “vehicles in transit” to help curb the illegal registration of second-hand vehicles locally.

In February 2006, SA’s Retail Motor Industry Organisation became the 14th business organistion to join the Industry Alignment Forum, a body set up by the BAC to co-ordinate business efforts to combat crime.

In April 2005, Business Against Crime also brokered a cellphone blacklisting agreement between the police and the country’s three cellular operators – Cell C, MTN and Vodacom.

According to the BAC, the reporting of stolen, lost and damaged cellphones “increased by approximately 500% during the first 10 months of 2005, compared to the same period in both 2003 and 2004.”

Reaching out to schools
Business Against Crime has also reached out to South Africa’s schools, with a special programme that teaches positive morality and non-violent methods of conflict resolution.

The Tiisa Thuto project was run in 121 schools in Gauteng province in 2004/05, reaching over 1.2-million scholars, teachers and parents, and is now being rolled out in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Western Cape provinces. reporter

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