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Prosecution Task Force on Car-Hijacking: Final Evaluation Report

NCJ Number
Virginia Francis
Chris Stone
Date Published
42 pages
This report presents the findings of the Prosecution Task Force on Car-Hijacking from March 1999 to September 2000 in South Africa.
The Prosecution Task Force was initiated by the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a joint partnership of the South African Ministry of Justice, the Open Society Foundation, and the Vera Institute of Justice. The goals at the beginning of the project were to introduce police and prosecutors early in a hijacking case to ensure proper channeling and investigation of cases, to test whether this approach had an impact on the finalization of cases, to offer a victim-centered service, to involve and disseminate crime information to communities most affected by this crime, and to test the effectiveness of "prosecution-led" investigations in South Africa. Prior to the initiation of the anti-hijacking initiative, there was little communication between investigating officers and prosecutors, resulting in lengthy delays, remands, and withdrawals due to lack of evidence, witnesses, and cooperation. To encourage cooperation and mutual support among the different agencies dealing with car-hijacking, the Task Force held biweekly strategy meetings, bringing together police, prosecutors, and Business Against Crime to share intelligence and develop enforcement and prevention plans. At monthly meetings, members of victim empowerment groups, community policing forums, religious institutions, businesses, and the police and prosecution service met to share information about hijacking and to explore ways to prevent it. In February 2001, the Bureau of Justice Assistance delivered the following findings on the effectiveness of the Prosecution Task Force: the Task Force on Car-Hijacking increased conviction rates from under 10 percent to an average of 42 percent; the time from arrest to finalization was reduced to an average of 4 days to 5 months, significantly less than the national average of 181 days; victim-support could be significantly improved by providing victims with court preparation, court updates, and pre-trial consultation; and docket control reduced the risk of corruption. While there are some risks associated with prosecutorial specialization, "prosecution-led" investigation is an effective model for the prosecution of high priority crimes, such as car-hijacking and rape.