Fast-tracking child safety
LESTER September’s letter: “Zille and De Lille’s silence” in the Saturday Weekend Argus on May 27 refers.
The horrific stories of children being abused and killed cannot and are not ignored.
Children are a gift from God and must be protected and not abused.
That these cruel things are happening in our society, means there is something wrong. There can be no justification for abusing or murdering a child. What is happening to our children today is an indictment on society.
However, I do not seek publicity or media opportunities from other people’s misery and heartbreak.
With the most recent case of Courtney Pieters, 3, who was found dead in shallow grave in Epping, I sent my condolences to the family and made a contribution to the burial costs via the Mayor’s Special Fund.
In the past, when children have gone missing and with the case of Sasha-Lee November who went missing in Hanover Park in May 2015, I offered a reward for information that would lead us to finding her or arresting the perpetrator. I have offered rewards in other cases as well.
There is a serious breakdown in the social fabric where children are under siege and too often they are being harmed by people they know and should be able to trust.
The city has a number of programmes for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and our children.
A child safety pilot project was launched in Hanover Park in December to help fast-track response times in those crucial few hours following a child’s disappearance.
The project was launched to raise awareness about a protocol developed to fast-track community response times in cases where children go missing.
While the South African Police Service is the primary agency responsible for tracing missing persons, this project was implemented to support existing measures.
The plan uses existing city resources in Hanover Park to solidify the response in the event of a child disappearing, including the members of the Women in Rental Stock initiative, the Metro Police neighbourhood safety officer, and the city’s enforcement agencies.
We want to ensure the community knows what to do as soon as it becomes apparent a child has disappeared. Those first two hours after a person goes missing are crucial and the more resources we can co-ordinate and mobilise in that time, the better the chances of finding them.
With this project, a suburb co-ordinator is appointed probably a member or members of the rental stock initiative who have been trained– and in the event of an incident, they are informed and are responsible for:
Getting relevant information from the family, including recent photographs.
Informing the 107 Public Emergency Communication Centre and relevant missing persons organisations.
Activating the City’s Metro Police and Traffic Services to set up vehicle checkpoints or use the City’s CCTV technology to assist in the search, and liaising with the SAPS.
Mobilising the community to set up search parties and distribute information, photographs and flyers.
Publishing details of the missing child via social media channels and other information-sharing platforms.
While we have rolled out this project, the key is to prevent child abduction altogether. We continue our efforts around education and awareness to promote child safety.
Our Women in Rental Stock initiative has sought to bolster our efforts to address socio-economic challenges in our communities. More than 780 women who live in our council rental stock have been trained and empowered to help us address the various social ills.
This partnership stems from the city reaching out to communities asking for help to address the problems in our communities.
The community came up with ideas, which led to the establishment of the Women in Rental Stock programme.
This collaborative approach is in line with the City’s Organisational Development and Transformation Plan to enhance service delivery, to be a more responsive and customer- centric government, and to build safe communities.
The community is our eyes, ears, hands, and feet and we are committed to working closely with residents so that we can put an end to the scourge of violence against women and children and other criminal activities.
The Women in Rental Stock teams have been deployed to Athlone, Hanover Park, Lotus River, Lavender Hill, Manenberg, Uitsig, Ravensmead, Ocean View and Macassar.
The women are employed through the Expanded Public Works Programme and are tasked with:
Identifying and helping to address safety concerns in their environment.
Logging service requests related to the upkeep of their buildings and surrounding streets, including littering, dumping, and graffiti removal.
Providing home-based care services to the elderly.
Identifying individuals at risk of social challenges like truancy, substance abuse and domestic violence and linking them with relevant services.
We are committed to doing what we can within our competencies but I am urging communities to break the silence about the perpetrators. Too often family members and friends are aware of the abuse of women and children but they remain silent for fear of the stigma and what this would do to a family name.
If a victim of abuse is killed, the blood is on the hands of those who keep quiet and, with this silence, the perpetrators are allowed to continue their abuse.