Cape Argus

United, we can end our violence epidemic

- ALBERT FRITZ Fritz is the Community Safety MEC

TWO weeks ago, I was alerted to the cruel and senseless murder of 16-yearold Jordan Moore in Atlantis. He had been stabbed, mauled by the gangsters’ dogs and reportedly had a chain around his neck.

The murder is truly horrifying and but one example of the epidemic of violence that has gripped our province. No matter how many arrests, and no matter how many persons are put behind bars, we still face a situation in which more than 3 000 people are killed each year. Our aim, through the Western Cape Safety Plan, is to halve the murder rate during the next 10 years.

To do so, we need to address our province’s violence epidemic. This requires understand­ing pg what causes such violent acts and then putting a range of solutions in place.

We are taking a public health approach to violence prevention. This is defined by the World Health Organizati­on (WHO) as seeking to improve the health and safety of all individual­s by addressing risk factors that increase the likelihood of someone becoming a victim or a perpetrato­r of violence.

This approach consists of four steps: To define the problem; to establish why violence occurs; to find out what works to prevent violence; and to implement effective and promising interventi­ons in a range of settings.

Our starting point has been to analyse the types of violence frequently reported. While gangsteris­m is a significan­t contributo­r, most murders and violent crimes stem from interperso­nal violence. For this reason, we have focused the safety plan on gender-based violence, child safety, school safety, and creating safe spaces.

Putting in place protective factors against violence is our best defence.

We must work with young people to ensure that they can access opportunit­ies and are steered away from violence, and possible gang involvemen­t, and we must do so throughout the course of their life. This requires ensuring a healthy pregnancy, safe childbirth, healthy developmen­t, school readiness, school achievemen­t, ensuring thriving adolescenc­e, employment and healthy ageing. It means working together with all stakeholde­rs, including parents, schools, NGOs, faith-based organisati­ons and the local government.

Our work on the ground has begun, with the monitoring of hotspot areas for key risk factors, including:

Societal risks: social change, economic inequality, norms that support violence and the availabili­ty of firearms;

Community-based risks: high crime levels, local illicit drug trade and inadequate victim support;

Relational risks: poor parenting, early and forced marriage and friends engaging in violence; and

Individual risks: sex, age, education and disability.

We are developing five AreaBased Teams (ABTs) in Delft, Nyanga, Khayelitsh­a, Bishop Lavis, and Hanover Park. The additional law enforcemen­t officers funded through the safety plan will assist police within these ABTs. To date, we have deployed 500 recruits. The department will be appointing another 1 000 safety ambassador­s.

A further initiative that we, together with Chrysalis Academy, have recently piloted is the matric camp, which aims to give vulnerable students a safe space to prepare for their exams. In total, 60 grade 12 learners from schools in Hanover Park were selected.

We must rid our society of violence if we are to improve our economy, restore dignity to citizens and improve our safety all-round. While my department drives these initiative­s, I call on you, as a member of a community, family or workplace to stand against violence. That means reporting violent behaviour and crime to the police, helping when you see signs of violence in your family or community, such as child and woman abuse, teaching young people conflict management, assisting or seeking help with domestic violence, and with conflict and anger management.

We have come together before when we have faced challenges; we must do so now. Together, we can end violence.

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