Sorry state of local FCS unit

2018-05-28 16:00
Plessislaer worst resourced station for rape cases in KZN.

Plessislaer worst resourced station for rape cases in KZN. (File)

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The Plessislaer police station’s Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit is among the most under-resourced, with its having the biggest shortage of rape kits of any FCS unit in the country.

The station’s FCS unit has a shortage of 1 000 rape kits, which accounts for some 44% of the entire shortage in the province. It also lacks 2 000 buccal swabs, which allow officers to collect DNA samples at crime scenes.

Rape kits allow officers to perform rudimentary collections of samples on rape victims, which are then sent for analysis.

FCS units in KwaZulu-Natal were the worst hit when it came to a shortage of vehicles, with a collective 77 vehicles.

These revelations are contained in a written response by national Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, to a parliamentary question by the DA.

“This is horrific and does not bode well for the effective functioning of the FCS units as these resources are crucial for the police to assist victims of rape and violence and drive swift, quality investigation of cases,” the party’s shadow minister of police, Zakhele Mbhele said.

The revelations came as no surprise to experts, who said police units were notoriously under-resourced and understaffed.

Sifiso Mavundla, the chairperson of the Plessislaer CPF, said he was aware of the station’s FCS unit’s lack of resources.

He said the topic was discussed at a CPF meeting recently, where members were considering writing to Cele to visit the area in the hope of installing a new police station.

Mavundla said the Plessislaer station had to cover 19 wards. “They are doing their best, and the CPF, the councillors, the Amakhosi and the IzInduna are all working together, but there is only so much we can do with our limitations.

“The area is too big and so there will be these challenges.”

Professor Elrena van der Spuy, of the University of Cape Town’s centre for criminology, said while all policing units were under-resourced, the problem was accentuated with FCS officers who are exposed to the “dark side of human beings.”

“There is also considerable burnout and fatigue among members of the unit, and when they have greater demands — because of a lack of resources — it becomes worse.”

She said this can lead to an exodus of officers who “can’t take it anymore”, and sometimes those posts are not filled.

“The demands on FCS officers are considerable. They have to be on standby 24/7 when on duty, travel alone to risky locations, and there is a lot of psychological stress to deal with.”

A research fellow at the Institute for Security Studies, Chandré Gould, said it was unclear why the SAPS’s allocation to FCS units could not meet what stations required.

“We know their budget is huge, but it’s unclear whether it’s an administrative or management shortcoming, or a lack of prioritisation.

“Gender-based violence and child violence should be a priority. Officers need resources to be effective.”

Director of Rape Crisis in Pietermaritzburg, Sinikiwe Biyela, said under-resourced FCS units were a concern, and said it could lead to losses of key evidence, like DNA. She added: “Perpetrators get away and they reoffend.”

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