In order to reduce crime, it is important to understand the problem in its various manifestations. For some years now, a few researchers have been developing techniques and technologies for analysing crime geographically so as to provide better insights into its nature and prevalence. The seminar provided an opportunity for two leading researchers in this field to show how emerging spatial technologies can contribute to creative and new ways of understanding and reducing crime in South Africa.
The seminar was chaired by Dr Johan Burger, a senior researcher in the Governance, Crime and Justice Division at the ISS. Speakers included Dr Gregory Breetzke from Canterbury University in New Zealand, who discussed the magnitude and spatial extent of crime in South Africa, followed by Dr Cornè Eloff from South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) who spoke on ‘the integration of spatial technologies and methods to understand and combat crime in South Africa’. Although Dr Chris de Kock (head of Crime Research and Statistics in the South African Police Service) was confirmed as a respondent, he was unfortunately not available to participate. Approximately 60 people comprising academics, researchers, police, private security, business, embassies and the public, attended the seminar.
Dr Breetzke provided a brief historical overview of crime in South Africa and introduced ‘geography’ as a discipline that could improve our understanding of the problem and offer potential solutions. He provided background on the historic location of crime and offenders and outlined the results of his recent ‘geography of crime’ research using the Tshwane area as a case study. Dr Breetzke was able to show how spaces can create distinct social identities and how the behaviour of individuals in these spaces contributes to its development over time. These so-called ‘place-effects’ can, in turn, result in criminal behaviour. He is convinced that various ‘spatial solutions’ within a crime and development planning perspective are possible. As an example he proposes an ‘integrated inter-departmental national strategy that is predicated upon a rapid and rigorous upliftment of certain geographical regions of the country.’
Dr Eloff’spresentation showed how technology could be better utilised in the fight against crime, stating that such an approach would require the integration of various scientific disciplines and technologies. Activities such as analysis, conceptualisation, combating, prevention and prediction are all part of a joint and scientifically more progressive approach to crime fighting. According to Dr Eloff, crime incidents are associated with geographical location. Spatial technologies directly link to geographical information systems (GIS), remote sensing or imagery, global positioning systems, location based systems, etc. His presentation introduced spatial technologies such as satellite remote sensing, the analytical potential thereof as well as applied examples (such as with rhino poaching and commercial crimes). Spatial information such as land cover, land use, geo-coded crime data, geo-forensic analysis are a few of the concepts that he shared to demonstrate the value of an integrated spatial technological approach to understanding and combatting crime in South Africa.
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