Cops to up manpower or face legal action

The Public Service Commission has given SAPS six months to fill critical posts at Western Cape police stations, with Kraaifontein identified as a “problematic policing area”, or face legal action.

This after an investigation by the commission found 21 police stations across the Western Cape, including the ones with the highest murder rates, had less than one officer for every 500 citizens.

Public service commissioner Thomulzi Luthuli said posts in the province had dropped from 22 633 in 2013 to 20 969 in 2017 and 2018, and in March 2015, 22 038 posts had been available, but only 20 604 posts had been filled to date and communities were suffering.

Community Safety MEC Dan Plato told Northern News that complaints about poorly equipped and understaffed police stations in the province were not new.

“I receive complaints almost every day from communities that policing service delivery is being hamstrung by stations being short-staffed and under-resourced. Resource constraints directly impact the police’s ability to respond and, in worst case scenarios, this could be the difference between life and death as for those caught between gang fighting and gunfire.”

Mr Plato said the former police commissioner Arno Lamoer, had admitted that the province was understaffed by 3 000 police officers, and, according to a provincial legislature standing committee report from last year, 85% of police stations in the province were under-staffed.

“I continuously raise the issue of well-resourced and trained police officers able to serve our communities with the provincial commissioner and will continue, through our oversight mandate, to work to see the necessary changes are made to ensure that everyone in the province receives the policing service delivery they deserve,” he said.

He urged neighbourhood watches and CPF teams to “continue to work with the police in realising safer communities across the province.”

The former chairman of the Scottsville Community Police Forum, Gavin Riddles, said police weren’t visible enough in high crime areas, such as Wallacedene, Scottsdene and Scottsville; and Kraaifontein SAPS had poor safety plans and intelligence to tackle crime in those areas.

“Due to no effective crime-prevention plans, neighbourhood watches are being used as mechanisms to battle the crimes and to protect communities.

“They are under a lot of pressure, and will not be able to keep the communities safe on their own; they will need to get help from Kraaifontein SAPS.”

Inadequate policing in the area meant most residents relied on private security firms. Every second day, he said, innocent people were killed or hurt in gang violence, yet the police did nothing to prevent the bloodshed.

Northern News contacted several Kraaifontein neighbourhood watches but all declined to comment.

Former Tygerberg cluster CPF chairwoman Lesley Ashton welcomed the idea of having more police staff across the Western Cape as well as in Kraaifontein, but she said “well trained staff” were needed. Wallacedene, she added, should take priority over Scottsdene and Scottsville, for a mobile police station. Kraaifontein Community Police Forum secretary Clement Solomons, said police were doing their best to fight rampant crime in the area.

Kraaifontein SAPS had “strengthened their partnerships with the CPF and are working closely with neighbourhood watch teams to create a safer community”, he said.

Kraaifontein police precinct is among the top-30 in the country with the highest levels of violent crime, according to the most recent SAPS crime statistics. (“It’s still a war zone out there,” Northern News, November 1 2017).

Kraaifontein police station commander Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk said she did not have a “mandate” to comment and referred our questions to the provincial SAPS media office. It did not respond by the time this edition went to print. – Additional reporting by the Cape Argus