Perceptions of safety are a key indicator of the overall health and wellbeing of a community. A safe community is one where people are able to participate and live their lives in an environment without fear or risk of harm or injury. Community safety is about providing an environment where people are informed, engaged and welcome.
Community Safety Forums
In 2012, government adopted the National Development Plan (NDP), which is the roadmap guiding South Africa’s development agenda until 2030. Recognising that safety has a direct impact on sustainable development, and that high levels of violence have slowed down South Africa’s economic growth and transformation, the NDP identifies community safety as one of the fundamental components of achieving sustainable development. Chapter 12 of the NDP speaks to ‘Building Safer Communities’, and includes among others the following objectives:
Using an integrated approach to safety by addressing the underlying drivers of crime and violence.
Building community participation in community safety.
In an effort to promote a ‘whole of government approach’ to strengthening community safety, the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service (CSPS), on behalf of government, developed the 2016 White Paper on Safety and Security to provide a new framework for safety governance in South Africa. Grounded in an understanding that building safer communities is the responsibility of everyone in society, and it emphasizes the role of local government (with support from provincial government) in developing comprehensive Integrated Development Plans and Community Safety Plans that respond to the specific needs and challenges of a community.
The Civilian Secretariat for Police Community Safety Forums Policy (PCSFP) is the basis for the formation of the Bedfordview Safety Forum (BSF) which is a work in progress kick started by the COVID-19 pandemic. The PCSFP is a safety strategic framework that is aimed at building networks and partnerships seeking to create an enabling environment within the community towards creating awareness amongst community members on the scope of community safety, and encouraging communities to take ownership of their neighbourhoods through active participation in community safety initiatives.
Planning for safety is not only critical to violence prevention efforts; it is also an integral part of building a healthy and democratic society. In this regard, safety planning speaks more broadly to the social and economic development of a community, in that plans should strive to create conditions where people feel safe from physical hunger, disease and destitution; safe from unemployment, job insecurity and exploitative labour practices; safe to invest in their families and their futures; and safe to exercise their civil and political rights to engage with, and participate in, the decisions of their government.
The Community Safety Forum (CSF) does not aim to replace or duplicate any existing structure or forum at local level. It serves as a coordinating structure for collaboration and integrated planning and implementation at local government level. Our CSF is called the Bedfordview Safety Forum (BSF).
Since the CSF concept is closely related to Community Policing, a clear distinction needs to be drawn. CSF’s facilitate the delivery of a multi-sectoral governmental approach on safety in local. The CPF is a legal community structure established in terms of the South African Police Service (SAPS) Act and is mandated to facilitate community–police relations within a specific police station precinct (police station boundary) and serves as the mouthpiece of the community with the police and vice versa on policing matters and other relevant safety issues. The CPF is one of the stakeholders in a CSF structure.
The principles that underpin and guide the plan:
Shared responsibility, decision making and a collaborative approach between local organisations and community is required to address and improve community safety.
Best practice and evidence based solutions will deliver sustainable community safety results.
Promoting an active and engaged community is crucial for improving perception of safety in communities.
Local communities are best placed to develop and deliver solutions to improve safety in their own community.