DNA Awareness Training Workshop & feedback from last week

I have not touched sides since returning from JHB last week where I attended the Sustainable Crime Prevention Strategies & Community Safety Conference.  The days following the conference have been filled with preparations for the Trainers Workshop which we are hosting in Cape Town tomorrow. This workshop marks the start of our National DNA Awareness Campaign: from Thursday, all of our trainers will be able to host DNA Awareness Training sessions throughout SA.

But first, a brief overview of the Crime Conference: there was a veritable mix of speakers with as varied views on crime prevention and resolution as one could get. The Shadow Minister of Police, MP Dianne Kohler Barnard – DA,  reported a 90% drop in the crime rate in the Western Cape! This she put down to the principle of the ‘broken window syndrome’ which is being applied in the WC. Whilst I am not sure that I agree with the 90% statistic, I do believe that anyone visiting the WC will notice the difference insofar as people do move around more freely both on the streets and in the centre of town, and the city is in fact looking wonderful. If this is a formula that is working, albeit as a spin off to the world cup preparations, then why not explore it more fully throughout the country and in other communities? The ‘broken window’ strategy followed by the then Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani and his police commissioner, Howard Safir was adopted in New York City under the rubrics of “zero tolerance” and “quality of life“.  The “zero tolerance” roll out was part of an interlocking set of wider reforms. Giuliani had the police even more strictly enforce the law against subway fare evasion, and stopped public drinkers, urinators, and the “squeegee men” who had been wiping windshields of stopped cars and demanding payment. According to the 2001 study of crime trends in New York rates of both petty and serious crime fell suddenly and significantly, and continued to drop for the following ten years. Obviously in SA we have more serious problems than wayward “squeegee men”, but I must say, I personally have always believed in this principle, as the upliftment of a community as a whole does have far reaching consequences. I am going to try and get a transcript of her presentation, as it makes for interesting reading and I am sure will invite some form of debate!

Dr Mvume Dandala (MP, COPE)  had an alternative take on CPF’s – he called for ‘naming and shaming’ within communities, whistle-blowing as well as putting a stop to ‘celebrating crimanality’.  Our idea of CPF’s being purely about additional security measures is not his version of a CPF –  “CPF” means different things to different communities. As such, different methodologies need to be applied in different sectors. Our suburb does not celebrate criminality in any way whatsoever; but in the townships, Dr Dandala spoke of ‘sharp sharp’ men wearing ‘shine shine’ shoes and how young members of the community looked up to them and aspired to be like them – knowing that they were ‘spinners’ and that their wares were ill gotten gains did not deter them and it is this celebration of criminality that he wants to see change. Finding areas within a community that would name and shame that person was also a theory that he believed could work – for instance not giving a man full honours in a circumcision ritual because of his criminal background was something that had worked in one community…. And then, Natalie Jaynes, the Western Cape Regional Director for Gun Free South Africa said we should stop talking about ‘the criminals’ as a group of evil people – she said that its not a case of ‘us against them’… What then should we call ‘them’ I asked politely? I was told criminals should rather be called the ‘the perpetrators’ or ‘the offenders’. I asked whether “the murderer’s” would be acceptable? Apparently it is. Could somebody please explain the difference to me?

Yes, there were some thought provoking interactions  and perhaps if the people who should and could do something about these issues attended these conferences, we would get a little further, faster! Unfortunately it is always the people who are willing to do something about crime and its ramifications on our country that attend these meetings, and seem to always be fighting and lobbying those in power, who appear to do a lot less.

Before I left JHB, I was interviewed by Chantal Rutter from Carte Blanche. They are doing a follow up on the work of The DNA Project as well as a short insight into the new DNA Bill and why it is taking so long to be passed. The interview should appear on the Sunday night program of Carte Blanche within the next two weeks, but I will post the exact date on the blog once the date has been confirmed.

In the next few days I will write more about our roll out strategy for our DNA Awareness Campaign as well as start introducing you to our amazing team of qualified trainers and how we intend to spread this information throughout SA as widely and freely as possible!


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