‘Every farmer deserves to be safe’ : DA launches rural safety plan

Democratic Alliance DA’s Spokesperson on Police in Parliament, Andrew Whitfield says the aim is for communities to become involved in their safety and security.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has launched a rural safety plan, involving reservists and drone technology, to make rural areas safer. The DA’s Spokesperson on Police in Parliament, Andrew Whitfield, says the plan is aimed at getting communities involved by establishing rural community policing units.

He says one of these units will be established for every police station.

Whitfield says the aim is for communities to become involved in their safety and security.

“RCPU (RISC Central Processing Unit) reservists will work just like SAPS reservists, receive specific rural police training and act as ‘part-time rural policemen’. Their support members will have at least one function, become specialists with skills necessary for rural policing, and work with rural reservists under the command and supervision of SAPS,” says Whitfield.

South Africa’s rural communities are under siege by violent criminals. We regularly read stories of heinous acts of violence and crime that have been committed in vulnerable rural communities. This needs to stop.

South Africa’s vulnerable rural communities need urgent, clear and decisive action and we cannot wait any longer.

Attacks on farmers, farmworkers and all rural communities are an attack on our rural economy. It is time to put our political differences aside and work together across party lines to implement a rural safety plan that benefits all South Africans.

That is why the Democratic Alliance (DA) has developed a comprehensive rural safety plan that can be put into practice to address rural safety challenges.

Our plan takes a community-focused, ‘boots-on-the-ground’ approach to rural safety which includes the extensive use of technology in new ways and proposals for greater police visibility to keep rural residents safe.

Proposed solution

The DA’s rural safety plan proposes the following:

  • SAPS need to establish rural policing sectors:

Police stations that serve a particular rural area need to create at least one dedicated rural sector as part of its sector policing structure and plan. Stations that serve larger or predominantly agricultural areas will be required to divide such areas into several manageable rural policing sectors. These sectors will have at least one regular SAPS member appointed as sector commander, in line with the current sector policing norms.

  • Boots on the ground:

Each rural sector will require boots on the ground to ensure communities feel safer and to deter criminals. However, due to the SAPS’ unnecessarily top-heavy structure, the police will not be able to allocate a team of officers to each rural sector. This brings us to the third aspect of the rural safety plan.

  • Community policing:

Community policing has shown to be an effective deterrent for crime. Rural communities know their surroundings, as many have spent their entire lives in these communities. The DA therefore proposes a bottom-up approach where national/provincial rural safety strategies are issued to rural sectors, but rural safety plans will be customised at a local station level alongside community volunteers.

  • Rural Community Policing Units:

At local station level, Rural Community Policing Units (RCPU) will be established for every police station that serves at least one rural sector. These RCPUs will comprise of volunteers from the local community that will assist the SAPS in rural sector policing. These volunteers can either become RCPU Reservists, RCPU Support Members (including specialists), RCPU Auxiliary Members, Rural Community Volunteers or Existing Community Policing Forums.

RCPU reservists will work just like SAPS reservists, receive specific rural police training and act as a ‘part-time rural policeman’. Their support members will have at least one function, become specialists with skills necessary for rural policing, and work with rural reservists under the command and supervision of SAPS.

RCPU auxiliary members will mostly serve as ‘boots on the ground’ while rural community volunteers will act as a ‘rural neighbourhood watch’ with roles changing according to the needs of specific local stations. Rural Community Volunteers will not function or enlist as reservists. Whilst Community Policing Forums (CPFs) will prove to be invaluable assets in the fight against rural crime.

  • Rural policing support networks:

In terms of the DA’s plan, rural policing support networks will include rural Citizen Band (CB) networks and radio rooms, rural policing by drone and financial support.

Our plan calls for the establishment of a rural radio network for every station. This CB network will have access to a special rural safety channel only and will not have any access to official SAPS radio frequencies or channels. These CB networks will be controlled by a rural radio channel radio room, situated at station level and operated by a member of the local RCPU. It will be made available to all rural homes.

Suspicious activity and safety risks will be identifiable, the systems can be used for member roll-call and allow for distress calls – bringing rural communities closer together in the process.

Drone technology has been successfully used worldwide because it is cheaper, outperforms conventional policing and deters criminals. By equipping a drone with thermal imaging, night vision, or infrared imaging technology, it can be possible for suspects to be identified and pursued in any conditions and any time of day. Drone technology would add immeasurable value to the fight against rural crime and violence.

Ultimately RCPU reservists must be paid for their work and expenses. This a system will act as a foot in the door for those looking to join the SAPS on a permanent basis.

SAPS Structures

The DA rural safety plan will see the establishment of district rural safety units, SAPS Provincial Rural Safety Directorate and Rural Crime Intelligence Division (RCID).

Rural Safety Units (RSU) will be set up in the SAPS to allow for quick responses, carry out safety operations and work with provinces. They will ensure that all rural communities in the relevant districts know about and put into place rural safety plans.

The Provincial Rural Safety Directorate (PRSD) will be the central team for RCPU member training and be included in provincial visible policing. The specialised Rural Crime Intelligence Division (RCID) function will help collate, process and share rural safety information and work mostly at a district level while the crime intelligence network will use tip-offs to mitigate threats in rural communities.

It is important to highlight that that RCPU reservist model doesn’t require a single change to legislation. The only changes that SAPS should review are the qualifications and minimum requirements for reservists. There is therefore no reason why the SAPS cannot implement this plan immediately.

Our rural safety plan aims to guarantee community-based policing in rural areas and will focus on the unique challenges experience by each district.

The model proposed is constitutional, does not require any legislative, regulatory or policy changes. It is designed to act as an effective means to fight rural crime.

It is time to bring law and order back to our rural communities. Together we need to say that enough is enough and that it ends here.

Every single one of us needs to play our part. Not only the police, justice system and leaders in society but all members of society.

We need to put aside our political differences aside, recognising the severity of the rural safety crisis in the country.

We know what we must do, and it is time we turn our good intentions into good outcomes through action.

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