Programme plods on

JP Smith File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA

The CeaseFire programme – which had a price tag of more than R5 million in its last 18 months of operation – has helped curb gang violence in Hanover Park, but the level of its impact can only be measured by an independent study.

This is according to Pastor Craven Engel, from the First Community Resource Centre, who was tasked with running the programme, up until the funding from the Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme (MURP) came to an end in September last year.

The lack of funding has not deterred Mr Craven from continuing with the project, however.

“We are continuing slowly but surely, and hopefully we will get some funding from the business sector. The community still come to us because they know we deal with high risk matters. The skills development, job readiness programme, job placement and gang mediation is continuing. We are living in this area, and it must continue,” he said.

Mr Engel pointed out that they were operating on a much smaller scale, and three of the project’s former staff members help out on a part-time basis, especially when it comes to the City’s line departments having to come into the area to fix pipes or electricity, for example.

These former staff members would mediate with the gangs in order to ensure the safety of the City staff, and will stay with the contractors until the job is complete.

CeaseFire is a project implemented by the City of Cape Town six years ago in an attempt to decrease gang violence. The project is based on an American programme, and was launched as a pilot project in Hanover Park, Gugulethu and Manenberg in 2012.

Three years ago, it was extended for another two years, but since that tender came to an end in September, Mayor Patricia de Lille decided not to continue with it.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services, JP Smith, said: “Since the contract ended, the City has discontinued with the funding of the programme at the request of the mayor. The project was not run by safety and security but by the Mayor’s Urban Regeneration Programme under the mayor’s office and later by Area Based oversight. The Safety and Security directorate motivated strongly to continue with the project since it has proven to be successful. Last week, the City committed to reviewing the project and possibly expanding it to other areas.

“The Ceasefire programme is about behaviour change, reducing violence, finding alternatives to violence, rehabilitation and, most importantly, providing choices and opportunities to enable community members to exit the cycle of gangsterism and violence.”

When asked how effective the programme has been, Mr Smith said: “There were many lessons and best practices learnt through the implementation of the CeaseFire programme which are being evaluated with a view to possible future implementation. One measure of the effectiveness of CeaseFire is the 34% reduction rate in murder and attempted murder. The CeaseFire programme worked well in parallel with ShotSpotter and a significant amount of data has been generated on a monthly basis, which has proven to be very useful to the City and Law Enforcement agencies in getting a better understanding of community safety and gang-related violence. This has informed more effective, intelligence-based deployment as well as targeted social services and support programmes for both victims and perpetrators of gang-related violence.”

Mr Smith said the historical approach to high-risk individuals has been suppression “via policing and the criminal justice system”.

He added: “This has been proven to be inadequate and a more comprehensive approach is required with the introduction of community policing and the methodology of CeaseFire.”

The CeaseFire methodology included:

* Violence interruption and mediation: assisting and enabling behaviour change, alternative ways of resolving conflict;

* Outreach work: rehabilitation of high-risk individuals and providing them with opportunities to exit the gang life;

* Community mobilisation: working in partnership with communities, introducing measures towards the common objective of a reduction of violence and an improvement in community safety;

* Public education: with respect to approaches, possibilities, realities, community profiling, partnerships, progress, examples to the youth of role models who have changed their ways through this programme; and

* Monitoring and evaluation