Concern over safety as officers attend to horse stables

2013-11-22 00:00

MEMBERS of the Durban metro police mounted unit have been reduced from active crime fighters to stable hands, a senior policeman said yesterday.

He was reacting to the fact that the contract for a private company to run the stables was terminated last month, leaving the police members attached to the unit cleaning stables, grooming and monitoring the 14 horses as well as feeding the animals.

The policeman, who has been with the unit for more than a decade, said citizens and tourists are set to bear the brunt because officers cannot perform their duties, patrolling along the beachfront.

Yesterday the responsibility to comment on the issue was passed between the metro police spokesperson and that for the municipality.

According to four business owners on the beachfront whom The Witness spoke to, metro police mounted unit members were last seen on the streets around September.

“For years the mounted unit had providing a high visibility patrols on the beach. And we also feel safe around them. With only weeks to go before thousands of holidaymakers travel to city beaches, mounted unit members should be back on the street,” said the manager of one of the restaurants along the beachfont.

Councillor Heinz de Boer said in the past mounted unit officers managed to reduce crime by patrolling in the leafy surburbs including Hillcrest, Umhlanga and Durban North.

“This unit has been a very good public relations exercise for the city. It’s been relatively several months not being on the streets,” he said.

De Boer said in traditional tourist areas the unit has been supporting local police in tackling petty crime.

“Police know what is happening in that unit, but they cannot talk much because they will be victimised. These horses have been patrolling in Lagoon Drive and Marine Drive, but are no longer there.”

At the moment police officers’s daily work involves:

• Cleaning stables

• Cleaning horses’ hooves

• Grooming horses

• Checking temperatures, feeding and moving horses to paddock.

For the past 10 years, these duties were performed by the private horse owners sharing stables with the city.

De Boer said the mounted unit were not the only ones in trouble. “I will be contacting the SPCA to look into these issues,” De Boer said.

Officers said they are unable to perform their duties effectively under these circumstances. Four patrol officers, who are supposed to be patrolling areas inaccessible by cars, have to instead spend hours with their animals stuck on municipal property.

The SA Municipal Workers’ Union’s provincial secretary, Jaycee Ncanana, said the metro police mounted unit was falling apart because of “incompetent” officials.

“The metro police mounted operations have been effective in reducing criminal activity,” he said.

Police work is to deal with crime, not to clean their horses, he said. “These members love their jobs to protect citizens from criminals. In the past month, these members never set foot on the street.”

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