Numbers crunch at cop shops

Both Parow and Goodwood police stations are battling staff shortages and Goodwood Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman John Ross says the impact can be seen in the increasing anti-social behaviour and “tent cities” popping up all over Goodwood.

According to data collated by Western Cape legislature, 85% of police stations in the province are under-staffed.

Goodwood Ratepayers’ Association chairman Brian Lawson touched on the problem briefly at a meeting on Thursday August 31, saying Goodwood police station was 15 police officers down.

Parow CPF chairman Roger Cannon said he had met with the current and former station commanders at Parow police station to discuss staff shortages there.

“We have written to the cluster commander and not received any response as yet. At an inspection, of the station by national police recently, we highlighted our challenge, and we were told that there is a process where positions are being filled from the top down. The shortage of officers affects service delivery during certain shifts and also as a result of the extent of the Parow precinct. There is currently an intervention process taking place at the station to help to cope and hopefully the desperate need will be identified,” Mr Cannon said.

Mr Ross said it went without saying that every police station in Cape Town had a severe staff shortage and Goodwood was no exception.

“We are fortunate at Goodwood that the few that are assigned to the area are really committed and dedicated. We also have quality leaders who maximise the available manpower,” he said.

He conceded that there had not been a major spike in serious crime in Goodwood over the last four months but stressed that additional manpower was vital as the present complement was stretched and could only do so much.

Captain Kevin Williams, the spokesman for Parow police, said staff shortages at the station were “significant”.

“We experience challenges with regards to retirement, resignations and transfers to other provinces. Our lack of manpower was tabled with our provincial commissioner’s office through the Bellville cluster office. Even with our operational challenges we still desire to serve and protect,” he added.

The Western Cape legislature standing committee on public safety has reported that in 2013 it was established that the province had the largest shortage of police officers in the country: 1 012 officers, compared to the next largest shortage of 748 in Gauteng.

The Western Cape also had 128 understaffed police stations.

Provincial police spokeswoman Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana would not divulge how dire the staff shortages were at Parow and Goodwood police stations saying it was operational information.

“Police management is aware of personnel shortages in the province and police deployments are adjusted accordingly to ensure that service delivery is not affected,” she said.

A Department of Community Safety draft report released in September last year said Parow police station had 109 operational members, 19 support members, two reservists and 39 detectives. Goodwood police station had 104 operational members, 11 support members, seven reservists and 22 detectives.

A policing resources presentation delivered to the City of Cape Town by the Department of Community Safety states that the province has 20 210 police officers which effectively means that “the Western Cape has an 11% share of the national actual human resources”.

Following a series of public meetings in the province to determine the challenges individual police station’s face, the provincial legislature concluded that in June of last year, 1 140 new student constables were dispatched to Western Cape police stations and of these, 790 were sent to the 30 stations that contribute to half of violent crime in the province and the remaining 350 to other stations in the province.