The modest GPS as crime fighting tool in informal settlements

Dr Bernadine Benson1
1University Of South Africa, Rietfontein, South Africa

South Africa, similar to other developing countries, has a number of informal settlements. An “informal settlement” refers to the illegal and unplanned occupation of land by people who have constructed groups of housing units on the land (Barry & Ruther, 2005:43). These informal settlements pose a challenge for town planners and other municipal/borough managers. But more specifically they pose a challenge for law enforcement agencies and other providers of essential services. Within the South African context there is not a significant amount of discussions around geospatial intelligence to aid law enforcement in their duties. Despite this, the researcher is of the view that the geospatial technology which forms part of geospatial intelligence can be considered adequate to manage, investigate, and analyse crime.

This paper will discuss the value and use of geospatial technology, more specifically the GPS to accurate map and plot crime events in the informal settlement of KwaMashu in Kwa Zulu Natal and argue for its use to enhance comprehensive crime scene investigations. When coupled with the Theory of Delinquent places, it is a crime fighting tool that can serve law enforcement well when planning crime prevention and other mitigating operations.


Dr Benson joined Unisa in 2007 after a career of 19 years with the South African Police Service. She completed her D Litt et Phil in Police Science in 2013 and her area of specialisation was in Crimes against cultural heritage in South Africa. Dr Benson is the Chair of Department of the Department of Police Practice. She is the Editor-in-Chief for the South African Museums Association Bulletin (SAMAB) Journal also a sub-editor for the POLSA Journal. Her areas of research interest include police corruption, integrity testing, art crime, art theft, fakes and forgeries of art and other heritage items, looting of archaeological sites, social media, and teaching pedagogies for ODL environments. As an academic manager, Dr Benson is not directly involved in tuition this year; however she is still supervising both M and Phd students at the Department of Police Practice and interacts with students daily.

Dr Benson was the recipient of the Award for Excellence in Tuition: student support in 2016 for the College of Law.


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