South Africa

Invisible Policing

The wheels have come off the crime fighting vehicle

The wheels have come off the crime fighting vehicle
SOMERSET WEST, SOUTH AFRICA – SEPTEMBER 03: South African Police Service (SAPS) vehicle is seen at Rheinmetal Denel munitions plant where eight people were killed during an explosion on September 03, 2018 near Somerset West, South Africa. The investigation will continue at the factory‚ which produces explosives and propellants for civilian and military use in ammunition. (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk 24 / Jaco Marais)

Crime fighting in Gauteng is being hampered by the number of police vehicles that are inoperative due to mechanical faults or maintenance.

An oversight visit by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature’s Portfolio Committee on Community Safety to four police stations in the province has once again shone the spotlight on the poor management of police vehicles with a total of 61 vehicles across the stations not being operational at the time of the visit. And it seems there is no urgency to get them back on the road.

Almost half the police vehicles attached to Akasia and Atteridgeville police stations are inoperative because they are undergoing mechanical repairs and maintenance.

The Committee found that at the Akasia Police Station 24 vehicles of 50 were not operational, at Atteridgeville 22 of 51 were out of commission, while Etwatwa and Boksburg had eight and seven vehicles unavailable respectively. “These vehicles often stay in garages for over a month and not being utilised by police officers to attend to crime scenes, conduct patrols and ensure police visibility,” a statement on behalf of the committee read.

All the stations, except Boksburg, featured in the top 10 worst precincts in the crime statistics for 2018/19 for Gauteng.

Akasia was the prominent station in the Gauteng stats, featuring for crimes such as burglary at residential premises, where they had 861 reported cases – and carjacking, where cases reported went from 82 the year before to 129 in 2018/19 statistics.

Atteridgeville too featured in the top Gauteng police stations with an increase in the number of cash in transit heists, recording two compared to none over the past four years.

The South African Police Service was allocated R91.8-billion for the financial year of 2018/19, R46.87-billion of which was directed towards visible policing.

Speaking to Daily Maverick, chairperson of the community safety committee, Mapiti Matsena said they had presented a report to the legislature on what they found during their visit. He also added that they plan to meet with the National Portfolio Committee to chart a way forward.

Matsena said other than the shortage of vehicles, Atteridgeville Police Station has a general shortage of resources and that they were doing their best to fight crime with the limited resources they have.

You’ve got about 142 police stations in Gauteng, and this seems to be used as an excuse or overall reason for non-performance in all of them,” Matsena said.

The office of the MEC for Community Safety Faith Mazibuko said they could not respond to the matter of the vehicle shortage as the report compiled by the committee hadn’t reached the MEC’s office.

I think the Portfolio Committee at some point are going to call us for appearance before the committee and part of what we will deal with is that report. The MEC will have to act on the basis of that report. For now, the MEC hasn’t seen the report. We are just hearing from you as the media,” spokesperson for Mazibuko, Ofentse Morwane, told Daily Maverick.

Matsena said in the second quarter of their financial year that the committee was planning to visit the different garages where the non-operational vehicles are housed, to find out the problems that cause vehicles to be out of commission for months at a time.

We have to get to the root of this problem. We will be going to the different garages to see what the problem is. We don’t want to generalise,” Matsena told Daily Maverick.

Asked to comment on the findings by the committee and the general shortage of service vehicles at police stations, spokesperson for Gauteng SAPS Mathapelo Peters told Daily Maverick that at this point they couldn’t comment because they hadn’t yet seen the official report of the committee.

In a statement the committee said as part of exercising its oversight role, it would continue to visit police stations in the province in an effort to ensure that police officers were well resourced and provided with adequate support to better fulfil their mandate of keeping the citizens safe at all times. DM

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