Let’s collaborate to fight crime
Last week, the SA Cities Network released its 2018/19 State of Urban Safety in SA, which provides a longitudinal study of city-level crime trends in SA’s major cities.
The network links cities and partners, and encourages the exchange of information, experience and best practice on urban development and city management.
The Business Chamber’s interest was piqued by how these criminal trends influence the business environment and the ineffectiveness of the interventions deployed.
Furthermore, what concerns us the most is how businesses are plunged into an abyss by this scourge, including the immediate and long-term effects on the employees affected.
Any city’s growth prospects are hinged on the ease of doing business where the environment is deemed conducive.
For starters, the report’s overachieving aim is to contribute to improved efforts in preventing and responding to crime and violence, as well as the creation of safer communities in SA’s urban spaces.
What comes out strongly in the report is that in 2017/18, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City had the highest levels of robberies at non-residential properties.
Even worse, our city has had persistently high crime levels since 2011/12.
The prevalence of crime in Nelson Mandela Bay indicates the need for a multi-pronged crime-fighting approach as this not only burdens the city, but also threatens existing and future investments – including the sustainability of jobs.
Even more worrisome are the well documented causes of crime in any area, including unemployment – which perpetuates the vicious cycle.
As part of our collaboration with the metro, we have reached out to the directorate of safety and security – and will be engaging with the relevant mayoral committee member and his team, to explore possible solutions.
Generally, crime creates a sense of marginalisation for the citizenry as it restricts their movement and, in turn, affects growth prospects for the affected persons – including missed investment opportunities.
It also has a significant negative impact on the city’s residents, tourists and the overall business environment.
Often businesses are forced to close shop due to the impact of crime on its operations.
Furthermore, our regional economy is at stake as the prevalence of crime puts off investors.
While a number of factors contributing to crime have been widely investigated, there is still no documented evidence on how crime in the city is hindering overall socio-economic development.
For a city that has an unprecedented high unemployment rate of 36.9%, this paints a bleak picture for thousands of unemployed people.
The circumstances are even dire for those perched on the rungs of economic development because they are inevitably eliminated from playing a meaningful role with regard to economic participation.
Essentially, this means building safer communities and recognising that safety extends far beyond the purview of the police.
Within cities, the drivers of crime and violence are the social, economic, spatial and cultural risk factors that result from extreme poverty and inequality.
This view is also informed by the sentiments shared by police minister Bheki Cele, during 2018’s National Summit on Violence and Crime Prevention under the theme, Building safer communities through an integrated developmental approach to violence and crime prevention.
In his address, he framed safety as well as violence and crime prevention as contingent on the promotion of human dignity in addition to policing and effective integrated service delivery.
One of his observations was how the socialisation of people contributed to the high level of crime in a society.
In light of this, there is a greater need for the exploration of strategic collaboration and support mechanisms between societal structures to come up with effective and lasting remedial actions.
This would provide local government with insight into the principal determinants and mitigating factors of crime and violence, thereby empowering them to come up with tailormade crime prevention strategies and policies.
As the Business Chamber, we have seen first-hand the value of our triple-helix model of collaborating with government and academia, as well as the quadruple-helix model involving civil society in decisionmaking processes.
While prevention is largely the responsibility of the SAPS, the larger community should be accountable and begin forging a path where strategic interventions are deployed to squeeze out any emergence of crime within their immediate confines.
From our vantage point, we view the formation of alliances with interested stakeholders across the city such as civil society, government sectors, nongovernmental organisations and the private sector as a progressive approach in advancing our fight against crime.
We cannot build a competitive city while we do not have responsive crime prevention instruments to cushion our communities against this societal illness.
More importantly, our efforts in selling ourselves as an investment destination would be futile if we failed to address the elephant in the room through collaborative means.