The Forum of Integrated Risk Mitigation, or FIRM, has been fighting crime in the Johannesburg CBD resulting in a drastic fall of crime statistics. FIRM partnered with multiple businesses within the CBD to improve security and ensure the safety of all employees and residents in the city. The partners include FNB, ABSA, mining companies, taxi operators, property owners and small business owners. FIRM pools the collective resources and security measures of its partners to create a unified security force which is deployed throughout the CBD. Wayne Dawson, chairman of FIRM said that the closure of the M2 bridge in 2019 forced motorists to drive through the city where there was an increased risk of crimes such as hijacking and snatch-and-grabs. “What I have learnt from the crisis of the M2 Bridge is there are always opportunities, and those are new avenues, new ways of collaboration, and getting more people involved. Before the bridge closed, you were going to be in trouble [when driving through CBD] during the peak times, especially when traffic is grinding to almost a standstill – that’s when you’re at your most vulnerable. After that, we had our guardians lined up on specific routes and we made sure that they were equipped with a radio to dispatch assistance and help. It was a simple model, a simple strategy, and then we started realising that we can do more. Day one for us was literally just put the bodies down there and move on that space.”
Although the “Public Safety Guardians” are not armed, their presence has acted as a deterrent. Every guardian is equipped with a radio to call for assistance should it be necessary. “We are against the use of firearms – however, we have got tactical operational teams. I work for a bank, many of the other guys work for banks, so we definitely need those type of teams in our arsenal. However, our approach is very different – it is not come in and cause a firefight. Our approach is to contain, arrest, and bring the guys to book. You want to show society that these are the criminals and this is how we deal with these people. You also want to tell the criminals out there that there is a team that is not like any other team, this is how we operate,” Dawson explained.