By Anees Teladia
The United States of America’s Consulate in Cape Town recently invited the city of Chicago’s Deputy Chief of Police, Eric Carter as well as District Commander, Ernest Cato III, to Cape Town. The aim of the visit has been to attempt to expand and increase the partnerships between the U.S. and South African law enforcement services whilst sharing knowledge with other security stakeholders as well.
“The visit will include meetings with Metro Police, South African Police Services (SAPS), the Department of Community Safety, and the Committee for Safety and Security for the City of Cape Town,” said a media release by the United States Consulate General.
The visit was informed on the premise that the City of Chicago and the City of Cape Town have striking similarities in terms of crime rates, gang conflicts and homelessness.
“The city of Chicago, formerly ranked as one of the highest murder capitals in the world, has seen double-digit decreases in gun violence for the second year in a row. This visit aims to foster discussions about lessons learned and increase South Africa’s security partnerships against security threats of mutual concern,” said the same media release.
Both Carter and Cato III joined law enforcement officials and others on a walkabout through the Bellville taxi rank and surrounding area.
According to Cato III, nothing he saw on the walkabout was a shock to him.
“I’ve seen homelessness. Folks who need help, who want a better life. I see some good people who just need a road-map to have a more quality life,” said Cato III.
“[The similarities between Cape Town and Chicago, include:] Increasing violence, shootings, gangs and gang conflicts.”
Cato III commented on crime prevention strategies, saying that whilst technology is important, it’s not the most important factor in successfully deterring crime.
“We use technology, we use ShotSpotter…but also building and restoring community trust with multiple community meetings – allowing the community to be a part of the strategy to address violence is vital,” said Cato III.
When asked about the strategies Chicago police adopt in the fight against crime, Carter emphasised the need for a “holistic approach”.
“We changed our policing strategy. We have a collaborative mindset and are in collaboration with communities, business communities and our federal partners. That is the holistic approach. We’re [working] with the Sanitation Department, Fire Department and Health Department. Everybody has some stake in it if you want to be able to turn a community around. Collaboration helps us succeed,” said Carter
“…if it wasn’t for the cooperative and collaborative mindset, we would never have achieved what we have achieved.”
“At the heart of our policing strategy is our beat cops being encouraged to walk the beat, meet community residents and to get to know and build trust with the community and solve their crime problems. It starts at the basic level of the beat cop and building community trust.”
Cato III then wished to highlight some key issues relating to the politicisation of policing and the need for communities to be assertive in the fight against crime.
Effective policing shouldn’t be based on any political line. We have one ultimate goal – to provide quality of life for everyone. When you start involving politics in policing, you’ll find yourself short-changing one community and others. You have to remove the politics from it and come up with one strategy to affect everyone,” said Cato III.
“One thing we push, is that there are more good folk than bad. If you surrender to two bad people, they can tear down an entire community. But if you get the entire community involved, they can rid the bad from the neighbourhood.”
“The biggest challenge is to get everyone involved. Too often you have one person who is the voice for many. It’s unfair to the one person. Everyone has to take the risk and go out there.”
See photos of the walkabout below, with local authorities explaining the dynamics of the area to the guests from Chicago [Photo Credits: Anees Teladia]