Crime is an ominous, almost ever-present undercurrent in the South African lexicon – unfortunately so. The general apathy and increasing lack of faith in the efforts of the South African Police Services (SAPS) have led to an increase in the number of private security companies being utilised by those who are able to afford it. This, unfortunately, remains the reserve of a privileged few.

Business Against Crime South Africa (BACSA) has been working on a significant project over the past two years, which really kick-started in earnest in the early part of this year.

True to the BACSA mandate, it aims to combine the efforts of the private sector to help bolster resources and efficacy for strained public sector areas. In this case, we launched an initiative that combines the efforts of security companies and the SAPS in combating crime across the country.

This initiative is the Eyes and Ears (E2), a project in which the SAPS and the Private Security Industry (PSI) have joined forces to tackle crime. BACSA conceptualised the initiative and had the likes of Bidvest Protea Coin join from the very beginning, followed by G4S, SBV and Fidelity.

BACSA project manages the initiative and facilitates the roll-out within provinces. The project was initially piloted in Gauteng and then rolled out to the Western Cape and the KwaZulu-Natal. The three provinces have the highest crime statistics in the country. Following that, the initiative has also been rolled out in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

This initiative works on voluntary participation by private security companies. The aim is to have about 5 000 private security companies participate by 2021. The success of the initiative is about the active participation of all parties involved and information flowing through secure channels. 

South Africa has approximately 10 000 registered security companies and the number of security guards exceeds 2-million, according to the latest Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) report.

On sheer manpower, the security companies are well resourced. The aim of this initiative is to use the geographical footprint of the private security companies to convey critical, crime-related information to the police as soon as possible, and then for the police to respond to the incident as soon as possible. The main crimes this initiative focuses on are contact crimes such as armed robberies, house robberies, vehicle thefts and hijackings.

In a world still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty that accompanies it, crime has not abated and in some instances has increased. In South Africa’s “hard” lockdown in the initial months, crime statistics in terms of contact crimes like house robberies decreased because people were in their homes, limiting opportunistic break-ins in unoccupied homes during the day.

Sadly, what did increase in that period were break-ins at community schools. Some of these were notably thwarted by the E2 initiative in partnership with local security organisations, with regards to the increased ICT theft at local schools. There were about three incidents in March 2020 alone that this E2 initiative helped address.

On the morning of 20 March 2020, there was a break-in at a school where suspects made off with over R250 000 worth of ICT educational equipment. A local security organisation’s monitoring team activated the Eyes and Ears (E2) network and the stolen ICT was tracked to a house in Mamelodi in the East of Tshwane where all of the stolen ICT equipment was recovered by SAPS and arrests were made.

The initiative has other notable successes under its belt. In November 2020, we collaborated on a record number of 3 000 incidents. The question arises whether that means there is more crime or that more crime is now being reported to the SAPS.

We cannot encourage a less watchful eye. We have seen the news reports that there have been an increased number of vehicle hijackings, armed robberies and other contact crimes as the lockdown level movement restrictions have been lowered. The Christmas period is now upon us, where certain contact crimes normally peak.

The SAPS and their collaboration with the E2 movement are on high alert. BACSA and the E2 initiative have highlighted this December/Christmas period as a serious period for the initiative to actively tackle contact crimes, from homes to shopping centres.

The consolation for South Africans is the increased presence of eyes and ears to report these crimes and act on them.

The next level of this initiative is more hands-on-deck from a judicial perspective – to monitor the conviction rates of all these crimes reported.

Fouche Burgers is the National Project Manager for BACSA