In a nutshell
The Sedibeng Community Safety Forum synchronises community safety initiatives and promotes development of communities by ensuring safer environments and access to high quality services in Sedibeng District. By coordinating efforts and mobilising people and resources towards a common vision, the highly recognized SCSF is developing violence prevention interventions often cited as a model for other municipalities.
What we do
Stretching across rural and urban areas, Sedibeng District Municipality is the proud custodian of a region strengthened by its greatest natural assets, the Vaal River and Vaal Dam. From Heidelberg to Meyerton, Sharpeville to Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging, the Sedibeng District Municipality covers the entire southern part of Gauteng. Like much of South Africa, safety and security of residents and the region’s vibrant tourist population is a high priority.
Sedibeng District Municipality first established the Vaal Inter-sectoral Forum on Safety and Security in 2004, at a time when the district, as much of the country, was experiencing soaring rates of violent crimes. These increasing crime rates drove businesses, clientele, employees, and residents slowly out of the Sedibeng district. This sparked the municipality to embark on a pro-active strategy to spur economic growth, build investor confidence, and bring a sense of belonging and safety to its citizens. Renamed in 2006, the Sedibeng Community Safety Forum (SCSF) operates within Sedibeng District Municipality’s greater vision outlined as the “Vaal Metropolitan River City.”
Effective Community Safety Forums are critical for communities experiencing violence. They both help to coordinate efforts for maximum impact, while also debunking ideas that safety and security is the responsibility of law enforcement alone. The Sedibeng Community Safety Forum involves different government departments, business, churches, schools, the elderly, and every other individual belonging to the community, all working toward common goals for community violence prevention. The Forum holds regular meetings, coordinates violence prevention activities, and hosts special events. It is seen as a place not only to react to what is happening, but to share information, identify possible “crime generators,” and maximise scarce resources through collaboration.
How we do it
At the heart of Sedibeng Community Safety Forum (SCSF) is the principle of coordination and collaboration, with systems put in place to monitor tasks and keep all involved accountable. Most importantly, each stakeholder maintains active and engaged interest, commitment, and participation in crime prevention. Cooperative initiatives not only pay attention to law enforcement interventions (such as road blocks, evictions and confiscation) to create safety, but also focus on long-term activities to address root causes of crime. The initiatives combine the following measures:
- Social and environmental crime prevention (family cohesion, substance demand reduction, youth employment, offender reintegration, installing street lights, cleaning public spaces)
- Victim empowerment (trauma counselling, court preparation)
- Traffic and road safety
- Law enforcement (patrols, stop and search etc.)
- Monitoring service delivery (by actors from all three spheres of government using the Intergovernmental Relations Framework)
Community safety forums are found across the country. Some are more effective than others, and in some cases forums flounder without having the desired impact. Several factors can be highlighted that contribute to Sedibeng Community Safety Forum (SCSF) success in addressing violence prevention.
- Provide enabling environment: Sedibeng District Municipality, through its safety and security intergovernmental relations structure, has taken a stand to provide an enabling environment for relevant stakeholders to participate in the promotion of a safe and secure region. The work of the Community Safety Forum is part of a commitment to consistently build on progress made towards fighting crime, which also includes the Community Policing Forums and Law Enforcement Services.
- Operates at policy and operational level: The SCSF takes a leading role in developing and implementing policy at the local level, which is aligned with national and provincial policies. However, the forum also works at the grassroots hosting road shows, working in schools, helping families.
- Regular meetings: Stakeholders in the SCSF come together, plan together, and provide funds to help support different initiatives. They also ensure that they meet on a regular basis once per month.
- Sharing the load: Work is divided amongst the stakeholders so they all take on aspects of ongoing or special activities. For example, in a cleaning campaign one department may bring water, another the tools and machinery, another may mobilize volunteers. Each stakeholder reports on their work at monthly meetings, with each usually tackling 2 or 3 key initiatives in a year.
- Putting plans on paper: Each year the group usually develops a memorandum of understanding with each stakeholder outlining participation. While this is not legally binding, it provides a common understanding and encourages delivery and accountability. Members are tasked to provide the group with written reports.
What we have achieved
M & E is an integral part of the Community Safety Strategy, to which SCSF works. This includes process indicators, performance indicators, and output indicators.
What we have learned
The Sedibeng Community Safety Forum faces a few key challenges
Narrow Understanding of Crime Prevention
Many people, in partner agencies and the community, do not understand the concept of social crime prevention. Crime prevention is thought of as being about police, fire departments and rescue services. This presents a challenge when beginning to engage the municipality and community on a more holistic approach in that social crime prevention has not been included in plans or budgeted. To develop this understanding SDM engages with leaders and works to promote concepts of social crime prevention.
Need to promote responsibility
Since crime prevention is thought of as using or having access to police, fire-fighters and rescue services to curb crime and dangerous situations – all of which do not involve community members – there is a general perception that crime prevention is the responsibility of the Police only. SCSF educatescommunities against the negative implications of this notion, promoting the idea that safety and security is everyone’s responsibility.
Lack of resources
Sedibeng Community Safety Forum operates from existing municipal budgets, and has no budgetary allocation of its own. To continue to work effectively, each stakeholder pitches in with resources and leverages their own ongoing activities to contribute to the common goal of safety.