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Sector Policing in South Africa: Case Closed……or Not?

Christiaan Bezuidenhout

Police agencies from many democratic countries struggle to introduce effective crime
reducing strategies. They also make a great effort to build sound community relationships.
This is also relevant in South Africa (SA) as the South African Police Service (SAPS) has
undergone a paradigm shift since the abolishment of the Apartheid regime in 1994. Before
1994, the South African Police (SAP) employed a militaristic approach to policing which
was based on limited community involvement in law enforcement matters. Since then, the
“force” has changed into a “service” with the emphasis on merged police-community
partnerships. The introduction of community policing (CP) in 1994 when SA became a
democracy has up until now not made dramatic impact on the country’s widely documented
crime problem. In fact, many practitioners and academics are questioning the effect and
value of this police philosophy. Recently “Sector Policing” (SP) was introduced as a “new”
and additional policing strategy to strengthen the relationship between the community and
the police. A fresh emphasis was placed on this initiative that is aimed at preserving social
order by encouraging police involvement in smaller, more manageable geographic sectors
contained in a particular police station’s area of responsibility. However, the SAPS is still
finding it arduous to get information from the community and to develop a relationship of
trust with them as the majority of the community members still deem the SAPS as either
corrupt, unprofessional or the pawns of the government.

A comprehensive examination of the effectiveness of Sector Policing as a strategy to
enhance police-community partnerships in a specific policing precinct will be delineated.
Can this method of policing realistically be used to enhance community relationships and to
increase policing output and success? Over a period of two years (2008 & 2009), eight
community and research projects were undertaken in a specific policing area to determine
whether the strategy is working as an innovative policing initiative. In addition, the strengths
and weaknesses of SPwill be highlighted with recommendations identified. The value of SP
will be highlighted against the backdrop of the fact that South Africa hosted the FIFASoccer
World Cup in 2010 and many reports questioned the safety of visitors to the country during
the entire time frame of this event. This paper also will shed some light on the standing of
policing in South Africa in general and on the objective of SP, namely whether small groups
of law enforcement officials who are responsible for SP in a specific sector can take
responsibility for meeting as many of the policing needs of a particular area as possible.

Keywords: Community Policing, Sector Policing, Soccer World Cup, South Africa