The cheese is the fruit of our labour
Violent crime is an African and a South African (SA) reality and not one that is simply going to disappear through good wishes. In SA our crime rate is ridiculously high, and this is not just petty crime but the kind of crime where people lose life and limb along with property and dignity.
If one is flush enough you deal with one kind of crime by paying your e-tolls and another kind of crime by paying private security companies to respond to notifications of distress and if flush on time too you will perhaps even participate in a local community policing forum in order to plug the gap left by policing in SA. All of these “additional services” subscribed to and/or participated in are pro-active steps that are, ironically, re-active to actual crimes.
Crime must be detected in order to be responded to. By nature crime is active and, all responses to crime, reactive. What is the waiting period?
- When notifying the police we can expect a national average response time of around 20 minutes.
- When notifying a private security company of a crime you can expect an average response time of 10 minutes.
- If you don’t notify anyone of a crime or no one notices that you are a victim to crime …
What can a criminal accomplish ahead of those ten minutes? Or twenty minutes? Or however long their window of opportunity is? Quite a bit it seems. Let’s look at a few examples:
- A Pick n Pay gets robbed by a group of well armed gunmen. The gunmen are already getting away by the time the police arrive
- A woman and her elderly parents are intercepted in their driveway, they’re taken inside and tied up, the contents of their home are ransacked and the criminals make off with their vehicles. The police arrive well after the fact.
- A couple wakes up with several armed people in their bedroom, they’re tied up, sexually assaulted, their house ransacked, etc. After notifications, first the private security company arrives and a little later the police.
- A man is surprised in his driveway by armed hijackers, gives up his car and is happily unscathed. He considers himself to have done “everything right” in the situation including compliance with the criminals. The criminals are well away, fortunately he’s not harmed, now the private security company and police arrive after they are notified.
- To note some foreign examples—villagers are massacred by armed raiders and shoppers get gunned down in raids on a mall (if you read the news you can probably reference several examples here). The respective governments respond very late to the situations.
Inconveniently these criminals use knives and firearms, neither of which are licensed or traceable. They’re not legal gun owners either, do not renew their competencies, subscribe to sporting bodies or pay any form of licensing fees, nor did they have to wait for months to receive their firearms due to inefficiencies in the systems established to support and control their acquisition and usage of said weapons.
The people who are, however, directly facing the crimes directed against them are the citizens. They are threatened, robbed, and worse. It is only if there’s notification that one can expect 20 minutes for the price to respond or 10 minutes for your private security company. That’s a long time to be victimised. That’s a long time to worry about life and limb, property and dignity.
It is the public civilian who is, generally, unarmed and unable to respond meaningfully to this kind of crime that gets victimised. Criminals have learnt that the average SA citizen will comply with them. They will cooperate as they are tied up, as their homes are ransacked, as they are raped, even as they are murdered.
In my honest opinion a Gun Friendly South Africa is the way to to go. A friend of mine said it well in his blog post. We should empower and enable our citizenship to deal with crime. After all, policing and military are supportive organisations (or ought to be). If we raise responsible citizens and provide them with encouragement, opportunity and meaningful partnership then the police then we’ll be much closer to solving crime.
This will only happen when the government and police actively encourage citizens to defend themselves and when policies are created by government to enable this. It is the police and government that ought to be cooperating with the public to make this happen. By encouraging and cultivating a culture of responsible self-defence—armed and unarmed—we’ll be enabling potential victims to defend themselves against crime.
Otherwise we’re simply waiting for the trap to fall on us, given that the cheese is the fruit of our labour.