From the news desk

Social media increasingly used for crime info

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Social media has become the new go-to outlet for tip-offs, news and warnings on criminal activity across the City of Cape Town. As Capetonians collectively approach the holiday season, crime is set to increase, and residents are becoming more vigilant, especially on social networks.

The Institute for Security Studies’ Lizette Lancaster, the manager for the ISS Crime and Information Hub, said while[official figures show the average annual and daily picture, crime patterns change quite substantially from one month to the next. The bad news is that violent and property crimes tend to increase substantially during the festive season when compared with the rest of the year.

More recently Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko, speaking in Estcourt, Kwa-Zulu Natal, expressed the security cluster’s concern with the increase in crime over the festive season.

“We will increase the number of police officers throughout the country to ensure the safety of all South Africans during the festive season,” he said.

At the launch of Operation Duty Calls in October, Minister Nhleko called on communities to report on or expose criminal activities in their environment.

“As government, we need your assistance in fighting crime,” he urged.

And it is precisely this eagerness to assist authorities, at least online, that has become a new trend on social media, especially on popular site Facebook which boasts a horde of geographically specific pages for residents to share tip-offs and warnings of suspicious behaviour in their communities.

One of the most popular Cape Town-based pages, ‘Traffic fines, cameras & updates in Western Cape’ is updated daily with traffic news, and does not shy away from discussing deterrents for criminals during the festive season. The page caters to nearly 130 000 Capetonians who subscribe to it.

A post on Monday referred specifically to deterring home invasions, a criminal activity the ISS says increases during the months leading up to year-end.

Other pages, like Mitchell’s Plain’s ‘Name and Shame […] Drug Merts’ take a hardline approach to crime prevention, playing to the anger some residents in the drug and gangsterism-plagued Cape Flats suburb may feel.

Another nationally operated page, ‘Good Cops South Africa’, instead alerts the general public to the good work the South African Police Service does, reporting on feedback given by members of the community on the behaviour and efficiency displayed by police officials while on the job.

Police in all residential areas become privy to the positive feedback from the communities they serve, like Kevin Scholtz from Atlantis, who recently posted: “Good cops Atlantis: [I’d like] to say thanks to the SAPS Atlantis for the excellent work they do. They caught a man who broke into someone’s house [here], raped the lady and tried 2 kill her after that. Keep up the good work SAPS Atlantis.” VOC

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