Monday, August 23, 2004

Holding ground means losing ground when it comes to policing

[23 August 2004 - Business Day (South Africa)] High-density crackdown operations might make the news but they could be getting in the way of the improvement of local crime-prevention services. On a sweltering summer afternoon in early 1999, Meyer Kahn, about to complete a thankless two-year stint as police CEO, paced about his office, shaking his head and lamenting his lot. "How do you repair a machine and keep it running at the same time?" he asked. ... At the end of last year, police headquarters issued a directive that police stations across the country should begin to implement "sector policing", which entails dividing police station jurisdictions into geographical sectors, each staffed by a dedicated team. The idea is that grassroots cops will begin to understand microlevel crime patterns and tackle them with creative problem-solving techniques; this will draw police into constant communication with their constituents and help them understand the public as clients and themselves as service providers. The aim is to improve neighbourhood policing, which the police have been struggling to accomplish for the past decade. Will it work? Many doubt it. More

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