Calls for greater police visibility

2010-05-04 00:00

INCREASING incidents of “kangaroo justice” have been attributed to police inaction in tackling serious violent crime in the greater Edendale and surrounding areas.

Area ward councillors say that rape, murder and robbery are common there.

They blame the crime levels on the fact that there is only one police station to provide security for a population of more than 200 000.

The Witness asked councillors what their concerns are regarding crime and what they are doing to help the situation.

Said Ward 10 (Caluza) councillor Msawenkosi Mchunu,“People report their cases and police take a long time to respond before making arrests.

“The other serious issue is that there are not enough motor vehicles to help when required at the police station.”

What exacerbates the problem, Mchunu added, is a lack of police visibility.

The situation has led local communities to take the law into their own hands, because the residents assume that the police are not doing enough to ensure safety and security, he said.

Bonginkosi Mazibuko, Ward 20 (Pata) councillor, said if police visibility were increased in townships and rural areas, it would be easy to control the crime taking place there. “They should employ more police officers.

“Because the community is unaware of the difficulty the police go through everyday, they end up taking the law into their own hands,” he said.

Mazibuko said the police, communities and civil servants need to work together to tackle the problem of crime in townships and rural areas.

“Even as councillors we do not feel safe, especially with the coming of local government elections next year,” said Mazibuko.

Richard Ntuli, Ward 2 (Sweetwaters) councillor, said he had been asking for another police station to be built since he became a councillor, and that crime levels have since risen.

He said that now more than ever communities need to be protected and the only way to do that is by employing more policemen and -women.

“As a former policeman I know the strength of the police; they just need to be fully resourced to do their job properly,” he added.

Sandile Gabela, Ward 15 (Imbali) councillor, said crime is a global issue so building more police stations won’t help if systems are not put in place to ensure that crime is dealt with properly. He encouraged the community to establish community policing forums (CPFs) to help them deal with the scourge of crime.

Skhumbuzo Hadebe, Ward 13 (Kwanyamazane), said his ward has tried several times to get police to open up a satellite police station there, but was told it would be too expensive. He added that residents were promised police cars would patrol the ward, but these have not been forthcoming.

He said CPFs have helped to reduce the crime rate in the ward.

Kwenza Nxele, provincial secretary of Popcru, the union that represents uniformed officers in the police, prisons and traffic departments, said policing should be about achieving a crime-free society.

Nxele said the union has identified several challenges to transformation, including the visibility of police in communities, community participation in fighting crime and the shortage of resources to enable police to be effective in their duties.

He outlined the importance of having proper leadership.

“As Popcru we understand that we inherited structures of apartheid which protected the minority and discriminated against the majority …”

Nxele said the police cannot be said to be delivering if there are places like Sweetwaters, Willowfountain, Emaswazini, Inadi, Incwadi and many other places that don’t have police officers working visibly and closely with the community.

RESPONDING to the councillors’ concerns, police spokesperson Colonel Jay told The Witness that a police station must serve a community that is within a 15 km radius of the station.

“We are currently looking at those communities that are not within the 15 km radius of a station so that we can meet the set criteria, Naicker said.

“Some of the stations within suburbs are currently also serving rural communities that are in their precinct.

“We must also remember that stations in the urban areas also need to cater for the influx of people into the area during business hours.”

Turning to a recent Witness report about the Oribi police garage Naicker said that of the 221 police vehicles that were in the garage, 24 were in for accidents.

“Three of those were already repaired.”

He said 160 were in for mechanical repairs and 34 others have already repaired,” he said.

Naicker added, “Vacancies have already been advertised and we are awaiting appointments.

“In terms of the budget, it is a new financial year so everything is running smoothly.”

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