Source: (2000) In, George Mair and Roger Tarling, eds, The British Criminology Conference: Selected Proceedings. Volume 3. Papers from the British Society of Criminology Conference, Liverpool, July 1999. Downloaded 17 October 2003.The transformation of the South African Police Service (SAPS) during the period of democratic transition has been accompanied by both escalating crime and a tendency for complainants to withdraw criminal charges against perpetrators. The trend towards withdrawal presents the SAPS with a dilemma as attempts to legitimise the criminal justice system via community participation is undermined by the reluctance of complainants to pursue it to its conclusion. This paper attempts to explore this dilemma in the context of restorative justice. The escalating rate of withdrawals seems to point to the increasingly visible alternate dispute resolution mechanisms. Some of these mechanisms are long established within traditional community structures. However, far from simply undermining the formal justice system these appear to supplement an overburdened police and prosecution system, by calling on the formal system to initiate proceedings and act as a solution of last resort, that is if the alternate system fails. However, this relationship remains tense and informal. (author's abstract).