EDITORIAL | Community-police unity the way to go

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The responses of “pray or shoot back” reported on in The Herald on Tuesday show the utter desperation of many of those who live in the gang-saturated northern areas of Nelson Mandela Bay.
Judging by the reactions observed by The Herald team, it is clear that there is a groundswell of support from citizens who, as they so bluntly put it, are “gatvol” of the violence. It is heartening to see disparate groups take action against gangsters in Helenvale and the next step is for a more unified front.
There is no substitute for present, visible policing but the police can only do so much. They do also need to have the residents on their side.
The weekend’s marches show that people want to take action against crime in their neighbourhood.
However, there needs to be a social pact within the community as well as between it and the authorities.
And this must include a safe and secure mechanism to report gang activity without fear of retaliation. As long as whistle-blowers live in fear for their – and their families’ – lives they will be reluctant to pass on information to law enforcement agencies.
It is clear many members of the community support both prayer and guns, but the way of the gun is not a solution. That this approach has so much support rather exposes the belief the police have not done enough.
Actions which shine a light on crime and squeeze out wrongdoing should be welcomed, but this must never include vigilante justice. While we fully support the empowerment of residents they still need to work within the parameters of the law.
No one wants a return to the ugly days of the 1990s when vigilante-style organisations – the now defunct Padav (People Against Drugs And Violence) comes to mind – ruled certain parts of the northern areas.
We can only hope at long last the tide has started to turn, and it is heartening that pastors and an imam joined forces to pray together for their community.
The strength of a community which has not only activated its moral compass but also marches in tandem with the SA Police Services will be immense.

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