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TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
20 June 2001
CRIME AND CRIME PREVENTION ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT: CSIR BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr J Cronin
CSIR presentation document
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research briefed the Committee on their Crime and Crime Prevention on Public Transport strategy. A survey conducted on public transport users was included in the strategy. The results show that part of the problem is the lack of crime reporting. Railway stations have the highest crime rates mostly because of the lack of security at stations. Fare evasion was also identified as a major problem. Stricter access control was suggested for stations. The basis for the overall strategy is co-operation amongst service providers, commuters and policing agents. It was evident that a great deal of co-operation is needed amongst these groups to address the issues that were raised.
Crime and Crime Prevention on Public Transport Strategy (CSIR)
The CSIR delegation comprised of Mr Phil Hendricks (Director), Mr Oliver Page (Transport Specialist), Ms Prudence Nkosazana Moeketsi (Focus area: Health, Safety and Education Research) and Ms Aziza Fredericks.
Mr Phil Hendricks gave a brief overview of Transportek. This CSIR division deals with roads and transport technology. The division was established in 1951 and currently has 180 professionals in its employ. Its main focus areas are transport infrastructure (the design and building of roads), transportation (policy and planning) and traffic and safety engineering (traffic management and road safety).
Mr Oliver Page presented CSIR’s efforts on the Crime and Crime Prevention on Public Transport Project. The project was financed by the Innovation Fund and was conducted over a period of 24 months. The project initially focused on three geographical areas - Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Later CSIR decided to concentrate on the Berea/Warwick Junction Precinct area in Durban.
Project objectives included the investigation of on board crime and crime prevention; the development and evaluation of a co-ordinated crime prevention initiative and the reasons for distrust between formal policing agents and communities they serve. The project report indicates that many crimes are not reported and that various methods are used to commit crimes. Fare evasion is identified as a major problem especially on trains. The report suggests that access control at railway stations be improved and that a sense of integrity needs to be instilled in railway staff and inspectors. He added that CSIR was impressed by the efforts of Traders Against Crime (Durban) in combating the scourge of crime in their vicinity.
Mr Page provided the Committee with statistical figures from a survey conducted in Durban. Of the 1908 persons interviewed over a 7-day period, 303 respondents had experienced crime whilst using public transport in the period January to October 1999. Only 37% of victims and 19% of witnesses had reported criminal incidents to the police. The reasons for failure to report the crime varied from person to person.
The survey indicates that security providers have a key role to play in combating crime on public transport. This factor amongst others led to the development of the Hamba Uphephile Crime Prevention Initiative. The emphasis of the initiative was on co-operation between law enforcement, communities and service providers themselves. Maintaining stakeholder interest during and throughout the development of the initiative was a major challenge. Despite difficulties in the process, Mr Page insisted that the project was worth the effort. The aim of creating an awareness of the need for crime prevention was achieved.
Mr Page pointed out that the sustainability of the Hamba Uphephile partnership and its implementation throughout South Africa remains a challenge. The intention is to keep track of crime prevention initiatives and evaluate whether or not they are working. Recommendations included the establishment of a dedicated transit security force with the same powers of arrest as the police. Other recommendations included environmental design aimed at facilitating crime prevention and the development of community partnerships.
In conclusion, Mr Page said that public transport policy must be drafted taking existing National Crime Prevention Strategies into account.
For a detailed look at the initiative, please refer to the attached document.
Mr S Farrow (DP) asked if it was difficult to get various stakeholders to co-operate with each other. He also asked if discussions had taken place with SAPS to identify places where crimes could be reported.
Ms N Hlangwana (ANC) asked if there are any recommendations on how and when commuters should become involved. She also asked how things are now monitored considering the study is complete.
Ms Moeketsi stated that CSIR has interacted with all stakeholders and has tried to get feedback from all of them. Further, CSIR has had discussions with the SAPS and service providers on how to best facilitate commuter involvement. As a result, many communication strategies have been formulated in this regard.
Mr Page added that monitoring is difficult because many service providers, such as bus and taxi services, do not keep track of crimes committed. Metrorail and the SAPS on the other hand do keep records but often the records do not correlate.
Both Ms Moeketsi and Mr Page pointed out that since all stakeholders are working together there is a need for a co-ordinated database that provides access to all stakeholders.
Mr G Scheemann (ANC) asked a number of questions. Firstly, he asked whether reports indictaed that inspectors pocket monies that they collect from fair evaders. Secondly, he asked Mr Page if he felt that the redesigning of public transport facilities and stations would be effective methods of crime prevention. Thirdly, he asked if CSIR had researched why private security companies fail in their efforts to combat crime on public transport. Finally he asked whether the theft of railway lines had been addressed.
Mr Page replied that the problem of fare evasion cannot be solved only be improved access control. He highlighted that the integrity of staff and inspectors on trains needs to be addressed. Further, Mr Page argued that crime prevention through design is effective. He explained that many Metrorail stations are not friendly to disabled persons and that this oversight would also be addressed in redesigning stations. However, Mr Page pointed out that CSIR is not involved in the design process – Intersite manages this process.
Mr Page continued to respond to Mr Scheeman’s questions by saying that criminals do not take private security officers seriously because they do not have the same powers of arrest as the police. He contended that international experience indicates that transit police should be given the same powers as normal police officers. Finally, Mr Page stated that rail thefts mainly affect Spoornet. He said that the situation is worse where informal settlements are next to railway lines. Metrorail and Spoornet are powerless, as they cannot evict these individuals speedily. The law requires that alternative accommodation must be found for the evictee before eviction can occur.
Mr J Slabbert (IFP) asked how CSIR is interacting with the Department in addressing the crime problems now that they have been identified. He asked if it would not be better to replace private security guards at stations with SAPS members. This would be similar to having the old railway police.
Mr Page stated that they have worked closely with the Department and that recommendations had been made in light of their research findings. Further, he said that the problem is that police do not regard rail safety as a priority. This is why public service providers use private security companies to provide this service.
Ms D Mbongo (ANC) asked how the CSIR keeps in contact with victims of crime.
Ms Moeketsi stated that they had offered training to protection agencies on human rights and the criminal justice system. Qualitative training was also offered on data capturing to assist with following up on victims.
Mr Page added that frequently victims are reluctant to disclose their identities because they are embarrassed.
Mr A Ainslie (ANC) asked what sort of activities Traders Against Crime is engaged in. He also asked if the public were aware of the organisation.
Ms Moeketsi replied that organisations such as Traders Against Crime must have increased capacity. In this way people would become more aware of them.
The Chairperson said that the budget speech indicated that rail would be the focus of the Department over the next few years. He said that the work of the Department must be more facilitative. He added that the issue of rail security needs urgent action. At present there seems to be no other option than using private security firms to perform the security function. A separate rail police is a possibility that is only foreseeable in the future. The present solution is the proper regulation of the private security firms providing the security function.
The meeting was adjourned.
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