The ‘broken window’ concept and safety support circuit


By Thomas van Dalen

South Africans are to a greater extent being let down by the government and their statutory institutions, at all levels. Similarly, the government and said institutions fail miserably in their responsibility to guarantee the safety of all races.

This fact is substantiated by the vicious cycle in which citizens find themselves with the dramatic increase in crime and the accompanying inability of law enforcement agencies, due to various factors, to curb violent crime in particular.

The so-called “broken window” concept, which was formulated by the then New York mayor Rudi Giuliani, necessarily implies that every person who commits even the slightest crime must be prosecuted to the letter of the law. If this does not happen, it leads to more and more “windows” being broken, which later have to be replaced at great cost and effort, for which in many cases there are no funds available. The opposite is true that, if the pane is replaced immediately, it will not become a matter of impossibility to replace it later.

The overall success of this concept is only possible if all members of the community commit to throw their full weight behind all safety initiatives. The time when South African citizens could hold the government and law enforcement agencies accountable to guarantee the safety of the population is gone forever. Communities have the option of sitting on the sidelines and whining because the state is failing in its duty, while crime thrives, or they can each get involved to the extent within their power. The safety of communities, by the community itself, can be achieved by the gradual combination of various concepts, namely:

  1. Home and hearth protection
  2. Area security
  3. Establishment of community safety units, and with them control rooms
  4. The sideways (lateral) engagement with flanking units, and the associated pool of various resources, better known as a safety support circuit

Development of the security support circuit

The security of every household is the proverbial pebble thrown into the pond, with the resulting ripple effect it causes. The person next door sees what his neighbor is doing, and is forced to take the same, or even better, security measures in order to prevent the criminals from targeting his home instead of his neighbor’s.

So the rest of the street begins to follow their example, and then the block that spreads further to the neighborhood as a whole. These measures may vary from household to household, and even from neighborhood to neighborhood, depending on various factors, such as the threat determined by transit routes, distance from informal settlements, and so on.

The strategic ideal is to harden the security of every home in a neighborhood to such an extent that the criminal will instead move to an adjacent neighborhood. It is then exactly here where the support circuit concept is of value. The specific neighborhood that is already organized to such an extent that it is almost impossible for the criminal to act there is nothing but a support circle in the small not.

The ideal is obviously to foil the criminal to such an extent that he will leave the town/district completely. It is precisely at this stage that the management of a structure expands its area of ​​influence to an adjacent neighborhood (area of ​​interest) and joins hands with security structures of this neighborhood in order to promote cooperation between the security entities and networks within a specific geographical area. The development of this more structured cooperation agreement is the beginning of a security support circle. This results in security entities within the network of support circles:

  1. have access to more advanced technological and information systems, which result in early warning of any threat, can make informed decisions and launch appropriate actions;
  2. can use extensive communication networks to connect the circles of support; and
  3. can even connect other towns or districts with each other.

The purpose of safety support circles

Firstly, the aim is to connect a network of security structures together and thus create an all-round defense system within which communities can support each other in the fight against crime.

Likewise to create and maintain an attitude of cooperation and good relations between communities.

Furthermore, it aims to coordinate structures and the effective utilization of information, technology, capabilities and any other resources.

As well as establishing workable operational guidelines that are feasible and acceptable to all role players, to enable commanders/leaders at all levels to make sensible and timely decisions and to plan targeted operations and undertake actions against crime.

Home and hearth and area protection

As can be seen from the foregoing, val support circles not just out of thin air or arise spontaneously. This is a logical consequence/outgrowth of the “intentional” intention of a security-conscious community that has come to realize that the doctrines of home and hearth and area protection only establish the foundation to secure their area of ​​influence, and that they must also reach out to other communities in order to deter criminal behavior in their area of ​​interest as well.

These steps include the following:

Each member of the community’s unique efforts to secure their own homes and families. Cooperation and coordination of street blocks to secure their neighborhoods. The development of an effective communication system. Cooperation with all other security role players within the area (security companies, SAPS sector officers, CPF structures, etc.). The establishment of a central management (command) group, in which each safety structure is represented. The establishment of a central control center (even if initially it is only someone with a radio who can communicate with patrol members).

Utilization of technological force multipliers such as closed circuit TV networks, drones, vehicle tracking networks, Syntel, Navic and Snipr networks that can be streamed to the control room. It is important to emphasize that no electronic measure can ever replace the importance of physical patrols. It does make it possible to have fewer feet on the ground. No electronic measure can be used effectively if it is not backed up by people on the ground. The cameras must be monitored, and there must be people who can respond to an incident indicated by the drone or cameras. Without the backing of feet on the ground, all the technology is useless.

Well-thought-out contingency planning, which is the result of a well-structured operational planning process. The success of a contingency plan is based on the fact that a committee is called into being, representing all structures, to draw up the contingency plan; a complete threat analysis is carried out for the area in question, in order to be able to develop the scenarios to which the particular area is exposed; all security role players are involved in the planning and development of the contingency plan(s); all role players sign the completed plan; the plan is drawn up simply and comprehensibly; the plan is communicated to all members of the community; and the plan is practiced regularly, and the necessary modifications and changes are made.


The development and emergence of the safety support circle is not a process that needs to be rushed. Rather, it is the organic development and growth of a security-conscious community that is committed to not only securing their own neighborhood or town, but sees the bigger picture – knowing that if they work together with other communities to secure themselves as well, the threat is even further from their own front door, and that they will have sufficient early warning to be able to take timely action if the affected situation arises.

Always remember that prevention is better than cure. All actions should be 80% defensive in nature, and 20% reactive. If planning is done ahead of time and thoroughly, and provision is made for any possible contingencies, the criminal will always be on the back foot!

  • Thomas van Dalen is chairman of AfriForum’s training forum.