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Fighting crime — proactive or reactive?

1 March 2007

Thanks to addled for the first proactive crime-fighting suggestion I’ve seen in South African blogs.

This was posting the link to Eblockwatch, which seems to be fairly proactive.

I have seen all kinds of things suggested for fighting crime, like writing to the president, marching to the Union Buildings, protests and whatever, but these have more resemblance to the frenzied scratching of a dog to rid itself of fleas than anything that can remotely be described a “proactive”.

A dog scratching to rid itself of fleas is reactive, not proactive. The dog reacts to the flea bites by scratching. South Africans react to crime by whinging.

A proactive approach would make sure the fleas don’t get on to the dog in the first place.

In the same way, where crime is concerned, protest, marches, petitions, letters to the president — all these are reactive, not proactive. They are reactions to crime, but they do nothing to proactively prevent it.

In crime fighting, reactive policing has a place.

Reactive policing includes things like detective work, gathering evidence from crime scenes, tracking stolen goods, matching fingerprints and DNA samples — all good and necessary parts of traditional policing, but all essentially reactive rather than proactive. They are action taken after a crime has taken place, in order to bring offenders to book. Of course it has a proactive element as well — if the offenders are arrested, tried and convicted, then they do not have the opportunity to commit future crimes while they are in jail, and they may think twice about it once they get out.

There was proactive policing in our neighbourhood when, after a spate of muggings and rapes, there were mounted police patrols. The police would pass on horses at about 3 in the morning, and all the dogs in the neighbourhood barked, but the muggins stopped.

Then the police patrols stopped, and there was a spate of housebreakings.

But the police are overstretched, and because of that they don’t even bother to investigate many crimes. A couple of years ago I came back home after being out for less than an hour, and found the house had been broken into. I phoned the police, and while waiting for them to arrive, and making a list of the things that had been stolen, my car was stolen. I phoned the police again, and they were there within 5 minutes, but instead of looking for the car, which they might have found since it had only been gone a few minutes, they spent an hour taking statements, as did the people from the security company. In fact at one point there were two police vans, and two security company vans parked outside out house, doing paperwork, while the thieves went on their merry way. That is not proactive, and it’s not even reactive policing. I don’t want six guys sitting in my lounge filling in forms. I want them looking for my car before it’s gone into the next province. I can do them a statement later, and type it myself so they don’t have to ask how to spell every word.

See, I can whinge as well as the best of them!

But Eblockwatch — now that’s proactive.

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