Flying squad’s wings clipped

2014-01-27 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG crime victim was shocked to discover that the local flying squad, which serves 45 police stations — and a population of around 600 000 — only had five vehicles in working order in December last year.

The situation has not changed since then.

Shameela Jasat, a professional working woman, undertook her own investigation into the resources available to the police after becoming a victim of the city’s notorious “five-minute gang” and subsequent incidents of crime last year.

Other people she knew who were also victims included at least five advocates and a judge, she said.

Her concern was sparked when, during August 2013, she called Townhill police station to report a break-in at her home, and was told there were no vehicles to attend to her complaint. Neighbours told her this was a common response.

If local police can’t attend, the next most logical thing to do is to contact the flying squad on 10111, says Jasat.

According to letters she sent to national and provincial police management, her inquiries revealed that the Piet­ermaritzburg flying squad — which serves five police clusters consisting of 45 police stations and 12 specialised units — had nine vehicles, of which five (four Renault Koleoses and one Mazda) were in working order at that time.

Jasat questions how the flying squad can fulfil its functions with such limited resources and underpowered vehicles.

Jasat says three VW Golf GTIs and a BMW were in for repairs, with one having been there for nearly a year.

She expressed concern that, apart from the fact that so few vehicles were in working order, the only cars the flying squad have available are sedans that cannot match the high performance of cars favoured by criminals, like VW Golf GTIs, Audis and BMWs.

Jasat also alleged that the PMB flying squad is being allocated second-hand vehicles from Durban.

She says she was recently told that the flying squad has 21 members who require seven vehicles, and that there is a shortage of two vehicles.

Police had also highlighted internal problems, saying that officers did not take care of the vehicles.

“I believe that one of the primary functions of the flying squad is responding rapidly to priority crimes in progress,” said Jasat in her letter.

Jasat told The Witness that after meeting with senior officials in KwaZulu-Natal, to whom she’d been referred by the national office, she has lost patience.

She has since written another letter to the national office, complaining that she gained the impression that Colonel Kreasen Naidoo, who is in charge of the flying squad in KZN, was more interested in finding out where she got her information, than in addressing her concerns. “Even at this stage no one has been accountable for the dire state of affairs,” she said.

Jasat said she hopes the national office will conduct a thorough investigation and provide feedback to her, and not seek to “put the blame at the door of the members who are unable to carry out the tasks required by their unit in PMB”.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker told The Witness the procurement of all police equipment is dealt with internally by the supply chain management division.

“Vehicles are bought according to what is available on contract and our available budget. Vehicles are then distributed according to need and availability,” he said.

“It is highly unusual for a member of the public to dictate to police what type of equipment to purchase. By entertaining the personal preferences of individuals, we might find ourselves guilty of deviating from our internal supply chain policies and the Public Finance Management Act. Management of the SAPS is charged with the responsibility of purchasing equipment required by the SAPS and there are no mechanisms in place to relinquish that responsibility to an individual member of the public,” he added.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

DR Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies said that the issue of too few working vehicles was a “recurring problem”. He said the problem could be linked to the quality of leadership in the area, and in the province.

“It’s very, very bad management if you find that 50% of the vehicles are unusable because of neglect and the neglect in terms of maintenance.”

Burger said the blame lay with the provincial leadership.

“Regular inspections should pick up the problems, but these are not happening as they should. What are the inspectors doing? On paper, things are as they should be, but in practice things are not good.”

He said the result of the flying squad not being able to respond to incidents was that people lost confidence in the police.

“In affluent areas, this means that people buy security [in the form of linking up with private security companies]. But those communities that can’t afford to do this resort to vigilantism.”

He said another problem the police faced was not having enough licensed drivers. — WR.

The blame lies with the provincial leadership

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