City gropes in dark

2015-02-26 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG residents who may have been hoping for some ­comforting news about a comprehensive disaster plan for the city in the event of load shedding may have to wait a while.

An “urgent meeting” held by Pietermaritzburg SAPS to discuss emergency procedures in the event of a total city blackout during the Eskom crisis had a disappointing turnout and subsequent outcome yesterday.

Acting on instruction from the provincial head office, members of the Pietermaritzburg police station based in Loop Street placed a notice in The Witness which promised a meeting with Disaster Management, Eskom, private security companies and other role-players.

However, no one from Eskom or from the city’s disaster management team pitched up to give their input.

The meeting was held to forge ­alliances and deliberate on crime ­prevention measures that could be ­taken in the case of a total load-shedding blackout in the CBD.

Only a handful of security companies turned up to the event, but not enough to make the meeting last more than an hour.

The colonel heading the meeting, who asked The Witness not to name him or use his photograph, asked at the beginning: “When the lights go out, what are we going to do?”

The police want to increase visible policing in the CBD when people “would be left vulnerable on the streets and in their homes in the pitch dark”.

“We do not expect you to forget your clientele and patrol the streets for us,” the colonel told the security ­companies. “All we are saying is to switch your lights on where you’re parked so criminals know there are law enforcers present.”

Other suggestions that were brought into consideration were to ­increase police foot and vehicle patrols at night, as well as to increase police presence near busy intersections to ­prevent smash-and-grabs when traffic builds up due to non-functioning ­traffic lights.

“Load shedding puts a strain on our control room as alarms go off all over the city and our main problem is our limitations from the law enforcement side of things,” one security company manager said.

He asked for more leniency when it comes to driving with blue lights on and getting speeding tickets when rushing to a scene.

The meeting ended with two or three suggestions brought forward.

No contingency plan was agreed on and further meetings will take place in the near future.

“Load shedding will be around until 2016 and we need to do something ­because criminals will be doing a lot,” the colonel concluded.

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