No cars for cops

2010-04-26 00:00

WHILE thousands of crime victims are often denied better service by the police as a result of a shortage of police vehicles, in Pietermaritz­burg hundreds of broken-down police vehicles are piling up at a workshop waiting to be repaired.

The South African Police Force garage in Oribi has about 300 police vehicles that need to be repaired. Most of them have been involved in accidents.

The Witness visited the garage recently and found that the yard where the vehicles are kept is running out of space.

Mechanics and panelbeaters said they find it hard to do their jobs because they lack the proper tools and there are not enough of them to deal with the workload.

They also said the authorities take time to release money for each vehicle to be repaired.

“As I’m talking to you, there is only one toolbox, which is shared by eight panel beaters,” said a panelbeater, who asked not to be named, as he was afraid of losing his job.

“We last got new tools in the ’90s.”

The Witness also found that police officers who crash vehicles often fail to take the necessary steps for cars to be repaired, such as the filling out of documents to book them in.

“Drivers crash vehicles and dump them here. They hand over the keys to the security guard at the gate. They leave them without filling in the documents, which is necessary for the province or the area commissioner to authorise finance for them to be repaired,” said the panelbeater.

The workers said smashed vehicles are brought to the yard at any time of the day.

When The Witness visited the garage, there were keys for about 15 vehicles that had simply been left at the garage.

“They brought them here and just disappeared. Most of the keys have been here for more than three months, and we don’t know which cars they belong to,” said a worker.

The workers alleged that most of the vehicles had been dumped at the site by drivers who were under the influence of alcohol when they were involved in accidents.

Other drivers of the crashed vehicles register them at the garage, but fail to follow the correct procedures.

“Registering the vehicle at the garage is not enough. The driver who was involved in the crash and his police station should submit an accident report, which gives details of the accident,” said another worker.

The staff shortage is a particularly thorny issue, said the workers.

“It takes between two weeks and six weeks just to repair one vehicle, a job that should be done in less than a week, and then the car will be ready to be released back to the station,” a worker said.

He said that procedurally, three to four people should work on one vehicle to finish fast.

“But here a person is forced to do stripping, panel beating, masking and spray painting. That takes about two weeks to six weeks, especially since there are no tools.

“While a person is dealing with one car, others are piling up, as they are brought in almost every day,” said a worker.

The South African Police Force was sent questions about the state of the repair shop more than a week ago, but The Witness had not received responses at the time of going to print.

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