Police Community Relations Committees Help Build Trust and Improve Security in Aweil

Director of Community Policing in Northern Bahr El Ghazal State addressing participants during an outreach in Aweil West County, Nyamllel on December 1, 2020. Photo: UNDP

“We used to spend sleepless nights…Our area was so insecure; a house would be broken into every night. The town police did not respond to our plea to deploy police officers to secure our area,” shared Deng Deng Longar, chairman of the Mathiang Police Community Relations Committee.

Residents of Mathiang boma, located in Aweil Town in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, were long plagued by idle and disgruntled youth channeling their energy into criminal activities such as house break-ins, burglary, and theft. Fed up with lack of law enforcement response, people in Mathiang lost trust in the police to protect them.

Community policing – which encourages interactive partnership between law enforcement agencies, officers, and the people they serve – is recognized by South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) as a pivotal step to regain trust and improve crime-fighting in South Sudan.

25 PCRC committee members undergoing a four-day training on community policing in December 2020. Photo UNDP

Mathiang is now one of nine Police Community Relations Committee (PCRCs) operating in Aweil Town, where community members are working in collaboration with local authorities to secure their neighborhoods.

By developing connections within the communities, police are better informed and empowered to solve public safety problems. Community security increases early detection of criminal activities and timely resolution of disputes which would otherwise deteriorate into violence.

The PCRCs take an active role in raising awareness on human rights and the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV). They are on the frontlines of responding to survivors and connecting cases with local authorities for support. The PCRCs contribute to the early warning system and through the monthly meetings convened, security institutions are guided to develop strategies address challenges that threaten community safety.

Mathiang PCRC making bricks for construction of a police post in their community. Photo: UNDP

The PCRCs have demonstrated appreciation and willingness to work with law enforcement to protect and improve local quality of life. The PCRC in Apada boma spurred their neighbors to complete a police station, while in Mathiang, the PCRC is currently fabricating bricks for a station of their own.

"I thank the South Sudan National Police Service and UNDP for opening our eyes and showing us that it was our responsibility to make our neighborhoods secure,”  said one participant, after a four-day training held by UNDP in Aweil in November 2020. “With the skills and knowledge acquired from the training, we are empowered to be more resourceful in our communities."

Here is how forming a new PCRC works:

  1. The SSNPS State Directorate of Community Policing takes the lead in establishing PCRCs, informed by local crime trends and other priorities.
  2. Communities are consulted, mobilized and sensitized on crime prevention, the concept and role of PCRCs, and are encouraged to undertake establishing a PCRC of their own.
  3. Community members who volunteer to serve on the committee are vetted by police and local authorities to ensure inclusivity and community-focused orientation.
  4. In collaboration with UNPOL and other partners, UNDP takes PCRC members through trainings and helps facilitate monthly meetings.

With the successes registered by PCRCs so far in Aweil Town, the SSNPS is now focused on expanding the PCRCs outwards to counties notably in Aweil North, Aweil South, and Aweil West.

UNDP’s Access to Justice, Security and Human Rights Strengthening programme works with the SSNPS to implement community policing initiatives, including comprehensive support to the network of PCRCs in hotspots across South Sudan. This work is made possible with funding from the Government of Japan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Learn more about UNDP's work improving access to justice and promoting rule of law in South Sudan.