Cablegate: South Africa: Ngo's Consider Cycle of Crime And

DE RUEHSA #2155/01 2951624
P 221624Z OCT 09



E.O. 12958: N/A


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1. The cycle of crime plaguing South Africa has been
documented by two recent surveys of young people -- showing
they are victimized at even higher rates than adults
(reftel), and this can lead to their own violent behavior.
Looking for ways to break the cycle, the surveys identified
factors related to schooling, family, community, and peers
which enable some respondents to refrain from crime and
transcend their violent upbringings. Progressive prevention
strategies have been built into in new SAG legislation, and
the SAG has funded NGO community initiatives to eliminate
root causes of crime. Civil society groups worry, however,
that the public outcry over crime has put pressure on the SAG
to adopt a hard-line posture of heavy-handed law enforcement,
rather than one promoting long-term social change. End

Links From Victimization to Perpetration

2. The notion of a cycle of crime, in which early exposure
leads to later offending, is corroborated by the 2008 Youth
Lifestyle Survey conducted by the Center for Justice and
Crime Prevention (CJCP). The survey documents the high rates
at which 12 to 22-year-old South Africans are victims of
violence and crime (reftel), and it demonstrates how such
victimization in turn correlates to anti-social behavior.
The figures below show clear associations between youths'
experiences of crime and their own proclivities to violent
behaviors: higher percentages of respondents who had
themselves suffered crime now carried weapons, engaged in
physical fighting, or threatened others with weapons.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
Correlation: Violent Experiences to Violent Behaviors
--------------------------------------------- ---------
Percent who had (in prior year):
Carried Physically / hurt s.o.
a weapon in a fight with weapon
-------- ---------- -----------
Family violence
- Yes 11.6 44.3 5.9
- No 4.4 26.8 1.4

Community violence
- Yes 7.5 40.6 2.9
- No 2.9 16.7 0.8

Ever been assaulted
- Yes 13.2 75.8 6.8
- No 13.9 20.8 1.1

Ever been robbed
- Yes 12.5 49.1 6.2
- No 4.4 26.4 1.4
--------------------------------------------- ---------
Source: CJCP National Youth Lifestyle Survey 2008
--------------------------------------------- ---------

Resiliency: Overcoming One's Upbringing

3. In a companion study seeking ways to disrupt cycles of
crime, CJCP probed why youth respond differently to common
difficult backgrounds, some succumbing to criminality while
others resist. CJCP's survey of Youth Resiliency to Crime
compared two sets of respondents: an "offender" group of 395
young persons (aged 12-25) incarcerated for criminal
offences, plus 233 of their parents /caregivers and 297 of
their siblings; versus a "non-offender" group of 604 youths
who had not committed crimes, plus their caregivers and
Qwho had not committed crimes, plus their caregivers and
siblings, drawn for comparison from the same neighborhoods as
the offenders. The survey sought so-called "resilience
factors" which statistically are most predictive of youths'
ability to transcend even the most crime-prone contexts.

4. The most potent forces keeping youth out of trouble with
the law were schooling, non-violence in the family and

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community, peer behavior, and abstinence from alcohol and
drugs. High school graduates, for example, were six times
more likely to steer clear of committing crime than their
non-graduate peers, and that multiple increased to 31 times
among those who worked hard to get good grades. Respondents
from homes where disputes were settled non-violently were
seven times more likely to refrain from crime, and where
punishment at home was not physical they were twice as likely
to do so. Youths who had never themselves been victims of
crime were six times more likely to behave lawfully, the same
multiple as those whose best friends had never been arrested.
Young people who did not consume alcohol or drugs were four
times more likely to resist other forms of crime. Females
were 15 times more likely to stay out of trouble, in part
because males are less adherent to resilience factors like
schooling and more susceptible to risk factors like
delinquent friends.

SAG Policy: Prevention vs. Enforcement

5. Introducing the CJCP study at its September 29 launch,
prominent youth rights advocate Dr. Ann Skelton noted that
the resilience factors were striking in their simplicity but
deceptively difficult to promote in practice. CJCP's
findings were common-sensical and "in a sense, obvious":
violence breeds violence, as can corporal punishment in lieu
of reasoning; non-violent law-abiding role models are vital;
and school and family are key socializing contexts (evidenced
by the spike in crime at age 18 when youths finish school and
leave home). Prevention paradigms had been enshrined in
recent SAG laws, like the Child Justice Act (aiming for
rehabilitation over punishment of young offenders) and the
Children's Act (allowing for family interventions by social
workers). Dr. Skelton worried, however, that the SAG was
rushing to address symptoms of crime -- through metal
detectors, barbed-wire fences, and police on campus to ensure
school safety -- without parallel "deeper thinking" on its
underlying drivers.

6. In a September 25 meeting, CJCP Executive Director
Patrick Burton said the Resiliency Survey underscored the
limits of policing alone, and of a SAG trend toward
heavy-handed law enforcement. Enlightened SAG policymakers
were beginning to shift thinking from a reactive to a
proactive footing, funding preventative social work alongside
police repressive force -- but this was an uphill argument in
the face of mounting political pressure to wage war on crime.
The SAG's first National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS)
drafted in 1996 under Nelson Mandela was oriented to
prevention and alleviating crime's root causes, said Burton,
but this approach was scrapped in the Mbeki administration
under Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi's crackdown on crime.
In conjunction with President Zuma's recent endorsement of
expanded police authorities, the name change of the
Department of Safety and Security to the Department of Police
reflects the ascendancy of a harder line approach. Voices
like that of the Western Cape's provincial Police
Commissioner Mzwandile Petros, whom Burton said "objects to
having it all distilled down to statistics," were at risk of
being drowned out by a growing emphasis on enforcement.

NGO Initiatives in Crime Prevention

7. In meetings with Cape Town NGOs and academics, poloff
Q7. In meetings with Cape Town NGOs and academics, poloff
learned of a range of local interventions aimed to curb
violence and crime. As an example, the Department of Social
Development has compensated for its acute shortage of
government social workers by outsourcing some of its violence
prevention commitments under the new Children's Act to a
group known as RAPCAN (for Resources Aimed at the Prevention
of Child Abuse and Neglect). At communities' invitation,
RAPCAN leads workshops addressing historical traumas absorbed
over decades of apartheid and beyond, teaching empathy and
the channeling of rage, and confronting and changing male
attitudes toward violence. In high schools RAPCAN runs
seminars on coping skills as alternatives to violence, and in
homes they teach programs in parenting. (Note: Executive
Director Christina Nomdo extended an open invitation to
emboffs discreetly to observe such a community dialogue. End
Note.) RAPCAN cites the success story of the New World
Foundation, a center operating since 1980 in the Cape's once
gang-ridden Lavender Hill, which overcame local gangsterism
through community dialogue.


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COMMENT: Quick Fix vs. Long Haul

8. South Africa's extraordinarily high rates of violence and
crime demand both an urgent step-up in policing and long-term
prevention strategies. The former is certainly needed to
overcome the prevailing impunity enjoyed by illegal actors,
and its potential for quantifiable results is appealing to
politicians who wish to be seen to be fighting crime, but it
can be superficial in addressing symptoms, rather than the
root causes of crime and violence. By contrast, preventative
interventions are long and hard -- indirect but fundamental,
reshaping social and cultural dynamics and disrupting
intergenerational patterns through extensive counseling work
in communities, schools, and even individual homes. These
interventions do not bear fruit in the five years of a single
administration. It is encouraging to hear that the SAG is
funding NGO interventions for the long term, in accordance
with Mandela's 1996 vision -- but judging by recent headlines
of "shoot to kill" policies, we remain concerned that the
Zuma administration of 2009 may tilt toward the quick fix.
End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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