Finding the right balance: Immediate safety versus long-term social change

  • Louise Ehlers Open Society of SA
  • Sean Tait Open Society of SA
Keywords: violence, crime, violent crime, South Africa, developing countries, security, social change


South Africa has a reputation as one of the most violent societies in the world, despite the fact that overall levels of crime have consistently come down since 2001. In this and other developing countries, crime exacts a high cost in terms of health and security and has the potential to scupper the attempts of governments to fulfil their responsibilities in addressing poverty and inequality.This article argues that there is an urgent need to develop policies that balance the immediate need for safety and security with the long-term objective of achieving systemic social change. It describes an intervention undertaken by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa in collaboration with three provincial departments of Safety and Security that aims to explore ways in which a dual approach of keeping citizens safe in the context of current levels of crime, and simultaneously developing models for long term crime reduction, can be achieved.

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