Building municipal skills for community safety planning

Building municipal skills for community safety planning – Be inspired

The project assists selected pilot municipalities to introduce a so-called “safety lens” into their processes
The project assists selected pilot municipalities to introduce a so-called “safety lens” into their processes
Municipal services include the promotion of public spaces, i.e. providing parks and recreational areas
Municipal services include the promotion of public spaces, i.e. providing parks and recreational areas
Municipal staff is trained in building safer communities through participatory, evidence-based community safety planning processes
Municipal staff is trained in building safer communities through participatory, evidence-based community safety planning processes

In a nutshell

The Building Municipal Skills for Community Safety Project was initiated in 2014 by the GIZ Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention Programme with various partners with the aim of strengthening the institutional capacities of municipalities to contribute to building safer communities through participatory, evidence-based community safety planning processes.

What we do

Most municipalities in South Africa don’t have a clear understanding of their roles in relation to promoting community safety (beyond the traditional municipal public safety functions such as traffic safety, disaster risk management and by-law enforcement). This is can be seen in the fact that Municipal Integrated Development Plans (IDPs), as the primary strategic planning tool for municipalities, tend to lack substantial content related to community safety/violence prevention and evidence-based safety sector plans. In general, skills, structures and systems for multi-sectoral and participatory planning and coordination of safety strategies at local level, such as Community Safety Forums, are weak.

This project is an attempt to develop the necessary skills of key municipal officials, such as municipal community safety coordinators and IDP coordinators, to effectively facilitate integrated planning and co-ordination of measures to promote community safety at local level.

The primary goal of the project is to enable the participating municipalities to develop quality, implementable community safety plans, and to effectively mainstream community safety into their Integrated Development Planning (IDP) processes. A further aim is to reinvigorate and enhance the functionality of Community Safety Forums (CSFs), and to ensure that municipalities optimally support the planning and implementation of local community safety and violence prevention initiatives through CSFs.

Eight municipalities, in two provinces are participating in the project: West Rand District Municipality (WRDM) and its four local municipalities (Randfontein, Westonaria, Mogale City and Merafong) in Gauteng; and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (NMBM), Ikwezi Local Municipality and Amahlathi Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape. In selecting the municipalities to participate in the project,  it was important to include municipalities of different types and contexts e.g. metro, district, local, urban and rural.

Through an inclusive project steering group, consisting of the participating municipalities and key national and provincial government role-players, such as the Civilian Secretariat for Police/provincial Community Safety Departments, SALGA and the national and provincial Departments of Cooperative Governance, as well as GIZ-VCP, insights and lessons from local-level implementation are identified, and implications for national/provincial policy or support to municipalities are followed-up. In this way the project seeks to have a wider impact beyond the pilot municipalities involved.

How we do it

The project was conceptualised to entail various capacity building measures, such as modular in-service training targeted at municipal community safety coordinators and other relevant officials and councillors, practical assignments, ongoing mentoring and technical advice between trainings and workshops, and strategic planning support. A service provider, Mbumba Development Services, provides technical support to implement the project.

The training has been designed to equip the targeted municipal officials responsible for community safety with the necessary foundational skills to understand and effectively carry out their functions and roles in promoting community safety within their municipalities. The content of the training focuses on developing a greater understanding of community safety and violence prevention concepts, approaches and tools; legal and policy provisions governing local government’s role in community safety and the mandate of CSFs; skills for facilitating multi-stakeholder networking and collaborative action; and skills for evidence-based, participatory community safety planning linked to municipal IDP processes.

What we have achieved

So far, numerous training workshops have been conducted in the participating municipalities with municipal officials and councilors. Training material and other support resources for municipalities (such as model job descriptions for municipal Community Safety Coordinators) have also been developed.

However, in the course of the project’s implementation, various adjustments have had to be made to the originally envisaged activities to respond to the realities of a highly challenging local government context. A core difficulty encountered has been the absence in most of the municipalities of a clearly defined institutional responsibility for social crime prevention, with dedicated staff and resources allocated to this function.

Nevertheless, the value of the project is abundant in terms of the insights into the constraints facing municipalities, and the kind of interventions, especially at a higher policy and legislative level, required to help unblock these challenges. These insights are being used by the partners in the project to advocate for an expanded role for municipalities in promoting community safety, and the necessary support and resources to enable municipalities to fulfill such a role.

What we have learned

Among the important lessons emerging from the work with the participating municipalities the following can be highlighted:

  • Most municipalities accept that the community safety function is weak in terms of the social crime prevention dimension and tends to focus on the conventional functions of fire services, traffic, disaster management etc. What is missing is a “home” for safety planning and CSFs within municipalities, with the consequence that CSFs and other safety functions are allocated insufficient resources.
  • Nationally, there needs to be a clearer position on the role of local government in community safety, how community safety functions should be located and institutionalized within municipalities, and for resources and capacity development support to be made available to municipalities.
  • The post of a dedicated safety coordinator rarely exists and instead, safety functions are ‘tacked-on’ to other posts. Personnel with a dominant function, e.g. traffic officers, have limited time and scope for community safety matters that are not specifically defined within their job descriptions. In most instances, their knowledge of community safety and social crime prevention is limited. Under such situations, it is impossible to develop and sustain quality social crime prevention interventions and maintain functional CSFs.
  • The functions and responsibilities of officials assigned to community safety should be clearly defined in their job descriptions. Capacity development offerings for these officials need to be expanded.
  • There is similarly a need to raise awareness amongst councillors with direct responsibilities for safety about how municipalities should contribute to community safety, and guide them in the political leadership role they can play in this regard
  • Generally, linkages between the community safety function and IDP process tend to be very weak. Officials responsible for coordinating IDPs are not sufficiently aware of how community safety considerations should be incorporated into the IDP. Guidance in this regard would be useful.   
  • In the absence of their own dedicated plans or programmes of action, CSFs are in danger of becoming a “clearing house” for generic programmes like 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, World Aids Day etc. that flow from provincial and national programmes.
  • It is important that the functionality of CSFs be measured not only against basic operational indicators, but also on impacts in terms of the local analysis of safety issues and success in mobilizing contributions from all relevant stakeholders towards making communities safer.