HomeMagazinesRural crime: Determining the extent of SAPS duties

Rural crime: Determining the extent of SAPS duties

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

  • Crime is not only crime against a person, but also against the country and the legal order that was established to organise society.
  • The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996) (the Constitution) places a heavy duty on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to act, with expanded powers, on crime on behalf of the South African community.
  • Factors that can contribute to the active fight against crime include proper training of SAPS members as well as appropriate equipment such as vehicles, weapons, and other means to expand the SAPS’s power.
  • Communities have a duty to insist that the SAPS fulfils the important task that has been assigned to it. It is equally important for communities to be realistic as to the regions of our country in which the SAPS falls short in this regard.

Crime is not only crime against a person, but also against the country and the legal order that was established to organise society. Although legislation is often perceived as restrictive under certain circumstances, its proper enforcement generally creates boundaries around imaginary spaces within which citizens can be free.

This is perhaps the sole reason why crime and lawlessness have such a negative impact on South Africans. A murder figure of almost 200 000 recorded over the last ten years is evidence enough.

Read more about the delictual duty of the SAPS to prevent crime.

Duties of the SAPS

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996) (the Constitution) places a heavy duty on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to act, with expanded powers, on crime on behalf of the South African community. The Constitution divides this duty into three parts based on action:

  • Prevention: Pro-active before a crime or crimes are committed.
  • Combat: Active while a crime or crimes are being committed.
  • Investigation: Reactive and after a crime has been committed.

No distinction is made as to the priority these actions should enjoy. These three actions will immediately come into play during any action or threatened action, as well as incidents that would amount to common law offenses or any other crime defined in legislation (statutory offences).

The following can contribute to the prevention of crime:

  • Image of the police and officers’ public actions.
  • Visibility of police officers.
  • Functional crime intelligence networks.
  • Community involvement in the fight against crime.
  • Safety awareness among the public.
  • Regular focussed crime-fighting operations.
  • Specialised use of human resources to prevent specific crimes.
  • Quick response to crime when it occurs, and its deterrent value.

Factors that can contribute to the active fight against crime include proper training of SAPS members as well as appropriate equipment such as vehicles, weapons, and other means to expand the SAPS’s power. Likewise, a thoroughly set out policy is needed to promote law enforcement. Community participation and organisations, as well as quick responses to crime will also contribute to active crime fighting.

The following can contribute to the SAPS’s crime-fighting endeavours:

  • Improved and efficient handling of victims’ complaints.
  • Improved knowledge of statutory offenses and their prosecution.
  • More support for victims of crime.
  • Continual communication with victims during an investigation.
  • Properly trained and competent detectives.
  • Specialised units for priority crimes.
  • Forensic capabilities (scientific and accounting).
  • Direct and active involvement of the Prosecuting Authority in investigations.
  • Training focussed on taking of statements and compiling of dossiers for court proceedings.
  • Better control over dossiers and evidence.
  • Action against underperforming or incompetent officials.
  • Managing conflicts of interest among officials who must investigate rural crime.
  • Managing the rate at which investigations are completed.

Upon detailed analysis of the SAPS’ responses to crime in terms of the Constitution, a set of criteria can be developed to determine the extent to which the SAPS is able to respond to an unchanged and growing threat of crime.

Filling in the gaps

Communities have a duty to insist that the SAPS fulfils the important task that has been assigned to it. It is equally important for communities to be realistic as to the regions of our country in which the SAPS falls short in this regard. In such areas, the inability of the SAPS must be supplemented with legal and professional intervention from the community and private security industry.

It requires a deliberate, planned effort to identify local threats, determine local capabilities and resources (people and equipment) to combat crime, get all interest groups working together, co-ordinate their responses and actions, and fight crime in partnership with the SAPS.

The goal is the establishment of safer communities and preservation of life. It is time for certainty and decisive action to replace assumptions about safety. Crime affects everyone and is best fought where criminals feel ill at ease. This does not require violence, but involved communities who work alongside the SAPS to help carry out their constitutional mandate. – By Hans-Jurie Moolman, Moolman & Pienaar Incorporated

For more information, phone Hans-Jurie Moolman on
018 297 8799 or email hj@mmlaw.co.za.

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