From a hunch to a hop on board

phieFrom a hunch to a hop on board

A Dutch PhD student's serendipitous journey of finding and preparing a research topic on policing in Cape Town 

 By no means am I providing any (in)definitive arguments or conclusions on the topic of (community) policing in South Africa, as this post is only based on preliminary orientation. This blog is an informative post on the kickstart of my quest for a new research topic while still working on my PhD project. It aims to highlight how topic formation and fieldwork come together due to both planning and coincidences; and how I went from a hunch to a potentially relevant research project.

It started back in August 2019 when I was reading the independent opinion magazine 'De Groene Amsterdammer' whilst enjoying the sunshine of one of Amsterdam's particularly hot but rare summer days. Turning the page, my eye fell on a piece by Dutch correspondent Fred de Vries on Cape Town's gang violence of which the final sentence caught my attention: "Bonteheuwel, [with] an average of two murders per week, experienced its first victimless month in July. That success is attributed to the Neighborhood Safety Team [NST], a combination of police and local residents, who patrol on foot". With a waterflood of questions running through my mind I hopped behind my laptop and started looking for more information: Was this number correct, and how did they measure that? What is the idea behind a NST? How do they operate and why did they contribute to the drop of local murder rates?

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