Community crime fighting at its best

[Image] The organisation has a visible presence
in the area, with several branded response
vehicles on call.

[Image] Close cooperation with the local police
has resulted in more successes than
either organisation could achieve alone.
(Images: Bossie’s Justice)

Ivan Doncaster
Bossie’s Justice
+27 82 411 2728

Emily van Rijswijck

A voluntary crime fighting initiative started by a proactive group of people in Mpumalanga’s Mbombela Municipality has drastically improved safety in the area and has been pivotal in making police efforts more effective.

The organisation Bossie’s Justice is run entirely by volunteers with the help of donations. Their mission is to help make the greater Mbombela area safer, and so far things are going well.

Working closely with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and security companies operating in the area, Bossie’s Justice has helped to uncover the first-ever drug laboratory in Nelspruit – also known as Mbombela – and with the help of paid informants, managed to secure the arrest of one of the province’s most wanted criminals.

At the heart of its crime prevention approach is a simple solution – funds received from donations are used for recruiting and paying for informants,  na d for rewaring those who come forward with useful information.

While the police are sometimes able to pay an informer, the amount of bureaucratic red tape involved means that often the information is received too late to be effective, says the organisation’s media spokesperson Ivan Doncaster.

It is the unique approach of Bossie’s Justice, and the fact that it is entirely community driven, which is making the initiative so effective, believes Doncaster, a medical doctor working for the organisation in his spare time.

“Thanks to the public this idea is a success.”

The Bossie’s Justice emergency number, available to anyone in need, is 082 567 5212.

Equipment and skills

Funding also covers the provision of much-needed equipment such as bulletproof vests and infrared night vision to helicopters, as well as acting as back-up support to the police, where this may be required.

The initiative also makes use of donations to appoint lawyers to oppose bail for dangerous criminals.

Now in its second year of operation, Bossie’s Justice has notched up a number of anti-crime successes and continues to grow, thanks to the efforts and enthusiasm of an increasing group of volunteers.

“Our primary operational role is to enlist informants on the basis of providing a fee to them, and where possible, act on tip-offs to prevent crime before it even happens,” says Doncaster.

He reiterates that all efforts are aimed entirely at being there for and ensuring the safety of the entire community. As such it is a non-political, non-racial effort by a group of passionate individuals wanting to make a difference, he says.

“We help anybody in need of assistance, whether the person has donated money and time, or not.”

Something had to be done

The project was launched after the murder of husband and father Bossie Bezuidenhout in his new home in Nelspruit in January 2010.

At the time, Bezuidenhout’s friend Rupert Taljaard felt something had to be done, especially after the criminals ransacked the victim’s house twice in two weeks, bringing further trauma to the grieving family.

At first established to bring Bezuidenhout’s murderers to justice by providing a reward to anyone with information, Bossie’s Justice has grown into a fully fledged crime fighting operation.

Taljaard dreams of having the concept replicated in other parts of South Africa.

“I am very positive with what we have achieved so far,” he says. “We have helped a great deal with crime prevention in the area and I would like to take this model to the rest of the country.”

So far the organisation has been involved in up to 150 crime prevention operations and attended to about 200 distress calls made by the public. Recently, it has also made trauma counselling available to victims of sexual assault who can’t afford it.

Community policing forums

In South Africa, a formalised cooperative arrangement between communities and the police exists and is known as Community Policing Forums (CPFs). A number of CPFs are extremely successful and proactive and play an important role in being the eyes and ears of the police in designated areas in the country.

CPFs are voluntary and fall under the SAPS Act of 1995.

As the name implies, these forums act as a structure for joint cooperation between communities and the police station servicing those communities. Social media platforms are proving to be helpful in spreading the message and getting the job done, as shown by the official Facebook page of the Parkview Community Policing Forum.

Among their many functions, CPFs often initiate neighbourhood watches and regular patrols in their area; they run crime prevention awareness campaigns among the community; and members carry out a citizen’s arrest where necessary.

Regular meetings are held between forums and the local police station, which helps to maintain a close relationship.