Fast-track­ing child safety

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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