n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The changing face of 'community policing' in South Africa, post-1994

Special Edition 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



One of the legacies of the pre-1994 apartheid style repressive and authoritarian policing was the lack of trust by black citizens of the South African Police (SAP). The poor public image of the police and lack of credibility in terms of policing and crime reduction obviously required a drastic change, not only in the mindset of police members themselves, but also in the way the new South African Police Service (SAPS) policed communities in the newly-democratic South Africa. This had to occur within the new democratic-oriented and rights dispensation as outlined initially in the Interim Constitution of 1993 and the final Constitution (1996). This changeover was premised and underpinned on the acceptance of the policing approach or strategy of 'Community Policing', which in turn was strongly based on community policing models emanating largely from best practices culled from the USA. In South Africa, community policing was implemented with a number of support 'legs', namely victim empowerment and restorative justice, inclusive of so-called democratic or human-rights oriented policing. Furthermore, community support structures as mandated by the Constitution such as Community Police Forums were also crucial to the envisaged roll out of community policing. Other policing approaches in South Africa that aimed to encompass community policing were the operational approaches termed 'visible' and 'sector' policing which in turn were premised on an intelligence-led policing approach. However, all these policing changes had to be operationalised within a context of continuing high levels of crime, in particular of violent crime. This article looks at the policy development and operational implementation by the new South African Police Services of a broad-based multi-pronged form of community policing and social crime prevention in a transitional democratic state in the period 1994-2009. It also postulates the relative failure of 'community policing' per se in the context of the continuing high levels of crime particularly violent crime with the return to a more structured operations based formal policing approach in the last three years. It also briefly examines some of the initiatives and 'community policing-oriented' post-ANC Polokwane Conference of December 2007 particularly the so-called Community Safety Initiatives, coupled to the national roll-out of Sector Policing in preparation for the Soccer World Cup to be held in South Africa in 2010.

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