Petros: Safer Gauteng key for SA

2010-09-13 22:46

Johannesburg - Beating crime in Gauteng will go a long way to winning the fight against criminals countrywide, the province's new police chief, Lieutenant General Mzwandile Petros, said on Monday.

Gauteng produced the worst criminals, and they sometimes moved to other provinces to commit crime there, Petros said at an anti-crime summit in Pretoria.

"There will never be a safer South Africa without a safer Gauteng."

About 50% of South Africa's crime is committed in Gauteng.

"If we therefore win the fight against crime in Gauteng, we reduce crime in a big way nationally," he said.

International drug syndicates were operating from Johannesburg to other parts of the world and firearms belonging to the police and army were easily accessible to criminals in the province.

Among the top 10 crimes in Gauteng are murder, hijacking, robbery with aggravating circumstances, sexual offences and residential and business robbery.

In his plan to fight crime, Petros said police visibility would be prioritised.

"The best way to fight crime is to prevent it. Police patrol vehicles should be visible in all sectors and that is an order, not a request.

"Streets should not kill or rape our people. Police should patrol the streets that people use because some have to walk to bus and train stations as early as 04:00 to get to work."

He said it was worrying that there were no police patrol vehicles on the dangerous sections of highways where robberies, hijackings and murders took place.
Petros planned to increase police accessibility, particularly in townships and informal settlements.

"It is unacceptable that there is only one police station in Tembisa serving about one million people. People have to take two taxis to get to the police station to report crime and that cannot be right."

He said the police's response time had to be drastically improved. He acknowledged that the 10111 crime stop operation was "dysfunctional".

"We are going to review how 10111 works and soon a new cellphone system will be introduced to improve the response time."

Good citizens

Petros said corruption and lack of accountability derailed the struggle for a safe South Africa.

"Dockets are being lost or sold. Our constables come out of police colleges as good citizens, but because their seniors are not there to make sure they do their work, corruption finds its way in."

People had to be able to trust police.

Monitoring crime weekly or monthly would help the police to correctly diagnose problems.

"We are given R1.2bn to fight crime and we must deliver."

Petros said most of the crimes reported to police stations were related to alcohol or drug abuse.

Dealing with the accessibility of drugs and regulation of liquor outlets would reduce such crime.

He said officers incapable of doing their job would be "released" and capable people would be employed.

Plans were in place to reopen the child protection and sexual offences unit.

Police would be "extremely friendly, extremely fair, but extremely firm" in their approach, Petros said.

Pound for pound

Police Deputy Minister Fikile Mbalula warned police to "shape up or ship out", saying their physiques were preventing them from doing their job properly.

"Our message to the police officers who still do not fit the image of the new police cadre is loud and clear... shape up or ship out.

"(Some) police officers opted to balloon in their physique as soon as they left police training colleges. Those officers are no match compared to the criminals they are after and must work on their weight."

He said police officers should direct all their energy to serving the people and "not nursing hangovers and massaging beer bellies in police uniform".

"We need officers who can match criminals pound for pound."