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Historically Johannesburg was a dusty settlement of gold prospectors. In 1886 Australian prospector George Harrison discovered gold reefs on the territory of Langlaagte. After these event people from North America, the United Kingdom and Europe began to flock into this settlement. According to this, government of the country decided to build a town, which was named Johannesburg after its first architectures - Johann Rissik and Johann Joubert.
During XX century, especially after the World War II between 1948 and 1994, the National Party government in South Africa enforced in Johannesburg the system of legal racial segregation calls apartheid. This means that all black citizens were moved by force to the new townships "only for black".
This removal was cruel. For example, the Sophiatown's black inhabitants were forced out of their homes without any notification. Heavily armed police just pulled them and their belongings out from houses, got to the tracks and conveyed to the new township called Soweto (South Western Townships). And instead of Sophiatown, which was destroyed, government built new white suburb named Triomf.
However, the apartheid system included not only forced removal but also the rules, which forbade black people to live, work, set up shops in "white areas" of Johannesburg and even transport and hospitals were segregated. These rules were also applied to white inhabitants, who need a special permit to enter the "black area".
In 1990's the racial segregation was disaffirmed. In 1994, after the South Africa Republic had become a democracy country, Johannesburg's black citizen, who had been discriminated during the apartheid system, finally got t5heir liberty and possibility to settle in white areas of the city. But apartheid had already made a big influence under the relationships between white and black inhabitants of Johannesburg.
Disparity between areas of extreme wealth and intense poverty during last 40 years let the world heard about it. At the time, when black people began to occupy the city center and settle in the same houses with white people, the white citizens have just left their houses.
Johannesburg began to be a fearful place to live in. Nowadays even middle class white people from the central part of Johannesburg are obliged to live behind the high fences with high-strength surveillance devices, in houses with security system. People fear to visit such districts as Alexandra or Hillbrow, where the Blacks live, because the risk to become a victim of crime is really high.
Johannesburg has a reputation of violent crime city. However the number of property crimes is the same as the number of reported facts of violent crime. The ratio of them is so: 45, 5% of stated reports were crimes against people and 44% against property. In majority of property crimes the violence was partially used though.
1990's became the most terrible and cruel years in Johannesburg history. The amount of burglaries, muggings, robberies, assaults that day was so high that people were under the continuing pressure of fear for their lives and lives of their families.
According to the facts based on victims' experiences, which were reported during 1990's years, the picture of crime in Johannesburg was so:
The most common crime, which affects the city's residents, was burglary. 24% of respondents reported this crime to the survey.
The most widespread kind of burglary was car thefts. The majority of people, who drive the car in Johannesburg even today, remember that leaving car on the street is unsafe. In 1990's «Drive faster, live longer» was favorite slogan of citizen, who were so afraid of strangers on the streets that didn't even opened the car windows and were always holding their feet on the gas when driving in the town.
Nowadays situation is better, than but not as safe as wanted.
Robberies and muggings (16,5%) and assaults (15,5%) took the second place after burglary, It should be noticed that 84% of assaults were rather serious, with weapon using. This is significant that only few crime incidents were reported to the police, especially it concerned mugging. Because of this, the clear statistic of violent crime case couldn't be formed.
According to the statistics, there was ascertained that the most property crimes were perpetrated in the suburbs and in the areas where white and Asian people lived. These people and parts of Johannesburg were the most attractive and gave the greatest opportunities for property burglars. Especially these apply to plundering and car theft. The number of these fixed crimes is disproportionately comparing with the proportion of white and Asia people population. These people and parts of Johannesburg were the most attractive and gave the greatest opportunities for burglars. As for the citizens who ran risk of mugging and robbery, the most vulnerable were citizens above 15 years, including Asians and the Black. The less vulnerable were inner city residents and old people.
As for the measures, which police took in 1990's, they were insufficient to effectively prevent or at least to reduce the number of crimes, particularly in the suburban areas of Johannesburg.
Strangely enough that black inhabitants of Johannesburg ran the risk of using violence in property crimes more than others. 20% of all burglaries, and also more than ¾ of all assaults, abuses and murders were directed against the Black, who lived and worked in townships or against their property. Also there was found that most victims of crime in Johannesburg had been a victim of the same crime more than once. This means that environment in which people live and work as well as their socioeconomic circumstance provides a high risk of victimization.
So what were the reasons for such boom of crime? "Despite the formal enfranchisement of the previously disfranchised majority, patterns of social and economic exclusion as well as the distribution of social services are very slowly to change (Simpson, 1999). This still continuing marginalization doesn't give possibility for some groups to access the economic power of the town. Only the privileged few have an access to the benefits of urban life. According to the extent of this access privileged people have the hierarchy. This category of people live in good hoses, have enough money to satisfy their and theirs family needs and mostly these people govern the economical and political life of the city.
The unprivileged groups of Johannesburg citizens, on the contrary, live in slum areas, where the risk to be robbed or armed assaulted is the highest in the town. Finding a well paid job is a big problem in these areas and people try to survive doing illegal things.
In such situation, unprivileged citizen struggle against social and economic marginalization. This can be clearly seen on the example of illegal occupation of land and houses, taxi wars and disputes among street hawkers and squatters. "Much of the experience of sustained marginalization in Johannesburg erupts through violent struggles over rights to access to the basic benefits and amenities of urban life." (Palmary, 2003) Most of migrants have violence attacks because they are perceived to be responsible for taking local inhabitants' jobs.
The International Center for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC) has identified the factors that became reasons of crime level increase. They include such points as:
1) poverty and unemployment of local inhabitants as a result of social exclusion (mostly among young people);
2) the availability of weapon, alcohol and drugs, which are the facilitating factors in violent crime;
3) social valuation of a culture of violence - where violence has become sanctioned as a normative vehicle for the assertion of power or to attain change in a society or community;
4) dysfunctional families with pour parenting, domestic violence and parental conflicts;
5) discrimination and exclusion deriving from sexist, racist or other forms of oppression;
6) degradation of urban environments and social bonds.
Most of these characteristics can be ascribed to Johannesburg. This city considered to be the social capital of South Africa Republic. It means that people have an access to goods and services that they could not otherwise access and also social capital can provide strong protection against crime. And the breakdown of the social capital often gives base for crime increasing.
The system of apartheid did enormous damage to the Johannesburg fabric of social relations within urban communities through its repressive manipulations and crude social engineering. The devastation of family life in general, destroying of schools and places of creative learning, nondelivery of recreational opportunities in a result brought the increasing and more untenable discrepancy between the very rich minority and very poor majority. "The legacy of structural violence embedded in both the destruction of the urban social fabric and the politics of exclusion was further complicated by processes associated with the transition to democracy" (Palmary, 2003).
Of course, such violence attitude to some groups of people had an influence on the crime situation in Johannesburg in the post-apartheid period.
In 1976 there was an incident of large-scale violence. The Soweto Students' Representative Council held a mass-meeting against using of oppressors language called Afrikaans. The police action were rather cruel, they began to fire at students. After this event the wave of protests and meeting swamped Johannes burg and over 1000 people were killed in fights with the apartheid system's protectors. . This event is a very good illustration of violent arrangements which government and police launched to put down the mutiny of angry inhabitants whose rights were interfered without their agreement.
The one more account factor which made the level of violence crimes in Johannesburg so high is the availability of weapon and firearms in particular. The possibility to die from the firearm shot on the streets of Johannesburg is the highest than in other cities of the world.
Research into crime in Alexandra Township and the suburb of Brumley showed that 78% of crime victims had their guns stolen during the crime perpetrates against them, with only 22% able to use their gun in self-defense. This research suggested that people in Johannesburg who carry a firearm are at greater risk of becoming a victim of violence.
Research by CSVR also invented that the schools of Greater Johannesburg have the high prevalence of guns, because both teachers and students are complaining for the high crime level in the city and are claiming to need firearms for protection against one another as well as from intrusion of gangs into the schoolyards. So the students want to defend themselves from the teacher and the teachers likewise.
The government of Johannesburg has an initiative to create "gun free zones" in schools. And this project has already brought results: 21 schools in Soweto are "gun free".
This project in future will be applied in the whole city. The reason for this is the fact that the gun ownership is the second worldwide factor which predicts a high level of violent crime. Moreover free gun ownership make existing crime more fatal and therefore more of a strain on economic and social recourses.
Police also doesn't take enough measures to low the level of crime in Johannesburg. And this fact gives confidence for the criminals in their impunity.
So gathering all this facts, it can be said that the apartheid made a great influence under the crime situation of the whole South Africa Republic and particularly under the Johannesburg city which became the "crime capital" of the country and a fearful city for local inhabitants and tourists, because of its high violent crime rates. Also this reflected on the economic of the city. The central part of the town in nearest future will be in ruins, because during last 10 years no new buildings were built. When the white people left this district they abandoned all buildings to the Black excepting telecommunication tower, which the Black didn't need.
In the past this district was a business center of the city with skyscrapers, hotels, restaurants and cinemas. Today the center made depress impression upon visitors: houses with broken windows, absolutely polluted streets and strangers with guns.
The continuing marginalization of some groups of people made them cruel and obliged to fight for having access to the simple benefits of urban life. There are no normal families and abnormal life. People don't believe each other and are always ready for repulsing the attack of criminal.
However, nowadays the crime situation in Johannesburg is much better than it was in 1990's and more tourist and migrants goes there. The measures of government for stabilization the crime situation in Johannesburg began to work. People can walk down the streets or driving their cars easier. Everywhere in the central part of the city there are a lot of high-strength surveillance video cameras which gives a possibility for police to control the order on the streets. This measure was made before the U.N.O. summit, and is actively used nowadays.