There are at least 2000 criminals at large in the country after escaping from police custody over two years.
Police statistics released to Sowetan yesterday show there were 3316 prisoners who escaped. Police have rearrested 1159 of them.
The statistics show there were 2157 criminals, some armed and dangerous, who bolted between 2005 and 2007.
Spokesman for the SAPS national head office Senior Superintendent Lindela Mashego said the escapees were awaiting-trial for murder, rape and robbery.
He said police were doing community alerts on the escapees, to ensure they were rearrested.
"We have an informal network with the community. We go around asking whether they have seen the escapee and we tell them what the person looks like and what they are wearing.
"Family members have also been instrumental. They call us when their family member arrives home, when they know he should be in jail," he said.
He said there has been a 26,2percent decrease in prisoners escaping from custody, thanks to the initiatives in place.
"All members on duty must have handcuffs, leg irons and hand guns. The police van must have a lock and it must be locked once a detainee has been apprehended and put inside.
"The custody manager must write down the accurate time the detainee arrives. He or she must remain handcuffed until they are locked up in a cell," said Mashego.
Also, he said the custody manager should keep a record of visitors. Police also do random checks in cells.
"We check cracks in the walls. We also check if windows and doors are locked every day.
"No visitors are allowed at night, except for doctors and attorneys. We choose not to entertain family members," he added.
He said police officers were not allowed to take a prisoner outside at night. If so it should be noted in the occurrence book.
"We are also very careful about the food and clothing prisoners receive from family and friends," said Mashego.