Social media use

Cliffy Mago, Kuyasa

I have watched with keen interest how certain neighbourhood watch bodies are using social media to communicate critical information.

For example the Langa Safety Patrol and Gugulethu Community Police Forum have active Facebook pages where they post their success stories, current investigations and more worrisome for me images of the alleged crime perpetrators and suspects.

This worries me because this can lead to victimisation of innocent people.

However, it is not all bad news.

Social media has created new opportunities for criminal justice agencies to solve crimes, among other things.

This meets earlier calls by Minister of Police Bheki Cele, who clamours for public participation in the
fight against crime,
and launched “Operation Mpimpa” encouraging people to help the police solve crimes.

The advent of outing criminals on social media has been beneficial for some criminal justice institutions but so as long as police are tardy, this won’t help our situation.

Social media has given vigilant police unprecedented access to the public, and vice versa.

Via Facebook and Twitter, police and the public can communicate in real time about incidents and events.

This has proven invaluable not only during times of crisis, but also on a day-to-day basis and at the local level.

Social media also become an important tool in police investigations.

What needs to be is to embolden the investigating capacity of the police and make sure that courts are indeed defenders of our human rights.

They must prosecute criminals. I know law practitioners and
others in criminal justice system frown upon what they
call “trial by social media”.