Pretoria – The South African Police Service (SAPS) has called on the community to work together to keep children safe and for parents to be more vigilant when it comes to their children’s whereabouts and
activities. The call comes during National Child Protection Week (31 May to 7 June), an annual government initiative to raise awareness of the rights of children. “As SAPS, we are committed to ensuring the safety of our children. It is important that parents, family members, teachers and community leaders are familiar with the role that they play in exposing any suspected child abuse or exploitation. It’s crucial for all these role players to also educate children on their
safety. It takes a village to raise a child – it is the whole community’s responsibility to take ownership of ensuring the safety of our children,” says Major-General Yvonne Botsheleng, National Head of
the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit in the SAPS. On behalf of the SAPS, Major-General Botsheleng highlighted her unit’s increased capacity to combat crimes against children and
several innovative community programmes the SAPS is participating in to raise awareness of violence against children. She also cited a decrease in the number of reported cases and a strong conviction record against perpetrators. According to official statistics, crime against children has decreased year on year from 48,718 reported cases for the 2012/2013 fiscal year to 45,230 for the 2013/2014 fiscal. The conviction rate is up to 75%, and since the re-establishment of the FCS in 2010, the unit has secured over 1,832 life sentences for heinous crimes against women and children. “We can’t, as the police standing alone, stop violence against children. We need to come together as a society to protect the future of this country,” concluded Major-General Botsheleng.
FCS increases capacity to fight crimes against children
The FCS unit, which was re-launched in 2010 after being absorbed into the greater police service in 2006, has since doubled its resources and now has 176 units and close on 2,500 members nationwide. In addition, the FCS employs a network of highly skilled Forensic Social Workers to assist with assessment of abused children and the compilation of court reports, as well as for providing an expert testimony in court. The FCS is involved in the policing of sexual offences against children,
person-directed crimes (where the family is involved), illegal removal of children under 12 and electronic media facilitated crime. Two current areas of particular concern for the FCS are child pornography and Sexual Offences. “Over half of all crimes against children that are reported involved sexual offences,” says Major-General Botsheleng, “and this is being exacerbated by the proliferation of electronic media for the transmission of child pornography. When it comes to policing child trafficking, the SAPS has a highly specialised desk operating under the Hawks – the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI).
FCS community projects
In addition to an ongoing drive to raise awareness in schools, churches and other institutions around the country, the SAPS is involved in several community programmes including the nationwide Adopt-a-School
project – where at least four SAPS members are assigned to a school and are charged with raising awareness amongst the teachers and learners on issues like child abuse, exploitation and the crime in general. The SAPS is also leading an outreach programme in Diepsloot, Gauteng, where young parents are being educated on how to be good parents. In addition, the FCS is working with the Social Development and Justice Departments to create child protection awareness around the country.
Tips for keeping your children safe
Major-General Botsheleng gave the following advice to parents on how to safeguard their children:
- Many incidents occur while children are outside playing and parents are inside, so always be aware of your children’s whereabouts and ensure they have adequate parental supervision at all times
- Keep a close eye on your child’s cell phone and Internet usage and who they’re communicating with
- Do a background check on any child minders that you employ and ensure that any day care facilities you send your children to are registered
- If you can’t fetch your children from school, make sure the teachers are aware of who will be collecting them
- If abuse is happening within the family unit, don’t ignore it or try and manage it internally, reach out for professional help from the SAPS or the various child protection institutions listed below
- Children are also advised to be honest to the parent so that they can be able to help them or pick it up easily in case of any form of abuse
- Parents to know and understand their children, talk openly to them about abuse and their protection
Break the silence surrounding child abuse
“If you suspect any abuse is happening, don’t keep quiet, report it to your nearest police station or the various call centres that have been set up,” says Major-General Botsheleng. To report any suspected child abuse, neglect or exploitation, please contact any of the following hotlines. You can remain anonymous if you are concerned about your identity being made known to the suspected perpetrator/s of the crime/s.
SAPS Crime Stop: 08600 10 111
- MS Crime Line: 32211
- Department of Social Development 24-hour Command Centre: 0800 428 428 (toll-free) – callers can speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling
- Callers can also request a social worker from the Command Centre to contact them by dialling
- Child Welfare South Africa: 0861 424453 / 011 452-4110 / e-mail:email@example.com
*120*7867# (free) from any cell phone