3 December 2012

South Africa: Police Prioritise Crimes Committed Against the Elderly

Pretoria — The South African Police Service (SAPS) says that as part of its festive season operations, police will be prioritising crimes directed at elderly persons.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa in a statement on Monday said police will move beyond arresting such perpetrators and move towards securing the harshest convictions through specialised investigations.

Over the past months, isolated incidents of violence, rape and the killing of older persons have been reported to the police in some parts of the country.

The minister outlined some of the intervention strategies that are currently being implemented by the SAPS. Some of the actions include prevention and proactive policing measures, exhaustive investigations as well as measures to improve services to victims.

With regard to rape, SAPS has specialised capacity for investigation in the form of family violence, child protection and sexual offences units that are also trained to provide support to victims.

In addition, the SAPS victim-support programme and National Instructions on Sexual Offences which are provided to police stations also include specific requirements for assistance to victims of sexual offences.

"SAPS crime preventative and community policing initiatives include activities that put police in direct contact with elderly members of the communities they serve. One of the effective measures is sector policing programme, which is being rolled out nationally. The programme provides for station areas to be profiled and relationships to be built with stakeholders in each sector.

"We have now instructed police to pay specific attention to vulnerable groups that have been targeted, including old age homes and schools," the minister said.

He added that some sector managers at police stations, who are the police officials responsible for ensuring safety within the community, involve the elderly in their sector fora. This enables participation of individuals who may not have access to organised formations that represent the elderly.

"With such interactions, police are able to upfront get a sense of some of the policing needs, particularly as the elderly, are able to share some of the safety concerns with police," the minister said.

"At some precincts, the police have supplied information on personal safety either through presentation to the elderly or through pamphlets that contain the details of police officials to contact in case of emergency," Mthethwa said.

Police management have disseminated these and other sound practices for elderly protection to provinces, so they may apply or adapt them to their specific station circumstances. "We shall monitor implementation and progress," he said.

In addition, the SAPS also participate in the South African Older Persons Forum, established to address the specific concerns of the elderly persons.

The minister emphasised that whilst the police will continue to prioritise dealing with these crimes, society must also play a role in ensuring the safety of elderly persons.

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