To beef up policing and make the inner city safer 100 law enforcement officers were deployed to Cape Town’s Central Business District (CBD) recently.
On Wednesday 24 August, Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith officially welcomed the officers who have been on active duty since Friday 1 July.
The officers will be deployed to the crime hotspot areas in the CBD including the Grand Parade, Station Deck, St Georges Mall and Long Street among others.
They will also patrol surrounding hotspot areas in Bo-Kaap and District Six as well as Kloof Street and Kloof Nek Road.
The Cape Town Central policing precinct recorded increases in a number of crime categories in the latest quarterly statistics.
Common robbery saw a 61,4% increase from 158 between April and June in 2021 to 255 over the same period this year.
Robbery with aggravating circumstances increased by 87,5% and assault grievous bodily harm (GBH) increased by 21,7%.
Smith says the statistics are of concern, and “illuminate the importance” of this CBD deployment.
“In addition to the boots on the ground to improve visible policing, this deployment coincides with a pilot project, designed to enhance the coordination and use of technology and resources between our three enforcement services. In an ever-changing world, the combination of a physical policing presence and force multipliers like improved technology and full exploitation of the data and analyses that comes with that technology becomes critical.”
He adds: “We’ve established a temporary fusion centre, using our Emergency Policing Incident Command platform, or Epic, to enhance efforts on the ground, and will use the lessons from this pilot to replicate the project city-wide in the future.”
Smith says in the three weeks leading up to Monday 15 August, law enforcement officers in the CBD effected 184 arrests for various crimes.
Hill-Lewis says this deployment will give the city a 24-hour policing presence in the CBD.
“This is a huge deployment, and we are confident it is going to make a difference. If you come to work in the CBD from one of our Law Enforcement Advancement Plan deployment areas, you now will feel safer at home, and feel safer when you come to work, because of what we are doing to make the whole city safer.”
The City has allocated a record R5,4 billion safety budget this financial year.
Hill-Lewis says: “We want the CBD to be a place where everyone can feel safe walking to and from the bus stop or the train station, and where women feel safe visiting restaurants and bars at night. The rise in petty and violent crime in the CBD has left people feeling vulnerable.”
Business and property owners in the CBD say they welcome the extra officers.
Monique Lang, who runs Roamwork, a coworking office space in Harrington Street, says: “We are a tenant on the second floor of the Harrington Building. The officers are definitely needed because after 17:00 it does get quite busy in the streets. So, having the extra law enforcement on the ground is needed here.”
A property manager, who wishes to remain anonymous, says: “It is good to have more officers, not just as a security measure, but also to assist people in need in the area. Sometimes there is a homeless person who has been injured and then the officer can assist that person. I have seen that before, so their duties span beyond just security within the area.”
He believes the officers’ presence has already had a positive impact.
“It provides a level of safety in an area where people feel fairly unsafe.
There was a crime surge that we witnessed. We were seeing bag snatchers frequently in the area and that has declined now.”
Restaurant owner Judi Stuttad says she was forced to close one of her establishments a while ago because criminals would enter the premises at night.
She also runs Fideli’s in Parliament Street and says safety is a big concern.
“We also have homeless people coming into the store and harassing us. Hopefully things will change now with more officers patrolling around the CBD.”
Joshua Jacobs, Manager at The Royal Oyster Bar in Bree Street, says: “The officers will keep the streets much safer. There is a lot of crazy stuff happening now in town, the summer season is approaching, and we get a lot of tourists which means more crazy things will happen. So, the officers will help in that regard.”
Hill-Lewis says over the last five years, police resources have decreased by 71% at police stations in the province.
“The many brave and hard-working men and women of the police are forced to do more with ever-decreasing resources from an institution that is under-resourcing those who are responsible for keeping us safe. The City of Cape Town has taken it upon itself to fill the gaps left by diminishing police resources, so that residents can feel safer.
“However, there is so much more we could do to help start winning the war against crime – the first being given more comprehensive policing powers.”
Muneeb Hendricks, Safety and Security Manager of Cape Town (CID), says: “We welcome the additional resources provided to ensure Cape Town’s economy thrives.
“Not only has the City of Cape Town provided the resources, but they have also ensured that the policing partners are included in the process. The members look eager to get on with the job and we wish them all the success in providing stability to our beautiful city.”