Defend Truth

Opinionista

Western Cape anti-crime strategy starting to pay off despite budget challenges and Covid-19

mm

Alan Winde is Western Cape Premier.

Policing is not a provincial competency, but having seen the impact of crime in our communities, and seen the grief and pain that drugs, gender-based violence and murder have wrought in residents’ lives, this province had no choice but to act. That’s why we have introduced wide-ranging interventions.

Prior to my State of the Province Address held in Mitchells Plain last year, there was a parade of all the safety agencies operating in the Western Cape – SAPS, law enforcement, our newly trained Law Enforcement Advancement Programme (LEAP) officers, neighbourhood watches, fire and emergency services – they were all there.

The men and women who go to work every single day to make this province a safer place – all in one location – was quite something to behold. The reason I chose to have them there was because I had been told over and over again by people in this province that they do not feel safe; they do not trust the police and they want a safe place to live their lives and raise their children.

Policing is not a provincial competency, but having seen the impact of crime in our communities, and seen the grief and pain that drugs, gender-based violence and murder have wrought in residents’ lives, this province had no choice but to act.

I made a number of safety commitments last year, chief among them that safety would be one of my priorities. At the time I did not anticipate how Covid-19 would change the world and the work of this government. As a result, some of the plans and programmes I committed to had to be altered, but safety remains a priority.

It was a priority I re-stated when I outlined the details of our recovery plan in October 2020. 

Safety. Jobs. Dignity and wellbeing.

These are the priority areas we identified as we came out of the first wave of Covid-19.

Despite the problems we have faced over the past year, we have delivered on many of the commitments I made on safety last year; among them that our interventions would be data driven and evidence led.

The safety focus of our recovery plan will be spearheaded by the heads of departments of community safety and health using the Cardiff Model. This violence prevention strategy focuses on the sharing of information between the departments of health, police and local government, allowing us to create a full picture of when and how crime occurs, and its impact. 

This system, when used in Wales, led to adjusted violence prevention strategies which resulted in a significant reduction in injuries through violence.

The first 500 LEAP officers deployed last year have already been hard at work, deployed into hotspot areas just before the lockdown. During the lockdown, these officers acted in support of our Covid-19 response, conducting Covid-19-related operations and crime prevention operations.

In October they were redeployed in five hotspot areas – Bishop Lavis (Bonteheuwel), Delft, Nyanga, Khayelitsha and Philippi (Hanover Park).

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Hanover Park, where these officers are working hand-in-hand with the police and law enforcement to make the community safer. 

They have conducted hundreds of operations including stop and searches, vehicle checkpoints and house searches. They have made arrests for crimes ranging from assault and domestic abuse to possession of drugs and illegal firearms.

In the third quarter of 2020/1 alone, LEAP officers in the five hotspots have made over 300 arrests in these communities. These first 500 officers are clearly already making a big difference and I thank them all.

But we need more if we are really going to make a dent in our battle against crime and violence in the Western Cape. That is why, during my address to Parliament in October last year, I committed to deploying an additional 500 officers – even with the major budget cuts being experienced.

I am pleased to report that the next 250 will begin training in April, with the following 250 beginning in July. By October we will have introduced 1,000 LEAP officers into the province since we launched our safety plan.

It is clear that they are starting to build trust with the community and that they are starting to make a real impact. 

We have achieved a great deal despite the difficulties we have faced this year, but our work is not done. In my first year as premier, I set the ambitious goal of halving the provincial murder rate in 10 years, and I stand by that promise to the people of this province.

What I was most pleased to see, however, is the cooperation with SAPS. When I delivered my speech last year, Western Cape police commissioner Yolisa Mokgabudi was newly appointed. I vowed that we would work on building our relationship with SAPS – and at a leadership level we have done just that.

At the start of the pandemic in the Western Cape, I introduced expanded cabinet meetings (initially held daily), which we now hold weekly. SAPS and the police commissioner’s office have been present in all of those meetings detailing their plans, responses and working with us. I want to thank the commissioner for this cooperation and for the spirit in which she and her team have worked with us.

As a province, we have also committed to changing legislation around the sale of alcohol, one of the key drivers of trauma and accidents in our communities. We saw the impact alcohol has on crime and safety during lockdown levels when it could not be sold. This, however, is not a long-term or sustainable solution as many people rely on the alcohol industry for employment in the province.

We have therefore established an alcohol harms reduction task team which is considering a number of targeted legislative interventions proven to have an impact on crime, violence and binge drinking in other countries.

We are working closely with the Western Cape liquor authority, which conducted hundreds of operations to monitor compliance with the regulations and to crack down on illegal sales of liquor.

In the past year, the department of community safety has also funded two municipal K-9 units. In Swartland, a unit of six dogs and handlers has been established, serving the entire West Coast district. The department has also transferred R2.5-million in funding to the already established Metro police K-9 unit which consists of 25 dogs and 23 handlers.

The department has also supported neighbourhood watches to improve their presence and visibility. Our neighbourhood watches are supporting SAPS by acting as their eyes and ears. During the lockdown, we supported 45 accredited neighbourhood watches to implement Covid-19 projects by providing them with PPE and funding. 

Over the past year, the department has accredited 87 neighbourhood watches and trained 15 accredited neighbourhood watch structures.

I committed to scaling up the Chrysalis programme which has had such a phenomenal impact on many young people in this province. The programme was able to create 10 youth hubs in Hanover Park, Khayelitsha, Harare, Nyanga, Samora Machel, Kraaifontein, Mitchells Plain, Mfuleni, Atlantis and Lavender Hill.

Our Chrysalis graduates were also able to play a role in our communities, assisting with Covid-19 safety protocols and safety messaging.

The department also hosted an outdoor leadership programme and a school holiday safety programme aimed at keeping young people safe when they aren’t at school.

I will be making further announcements on safety plans and initiatives in my State of the Province Address on 17 February 2021. 

We have achieved a great deal despite the difficulties we have faced this year, but our work is not done. In my first year as premier, I set the ambitious goal of halving the provincial murder rate in 10 years, and I stand by that promise to the people of this province.

This past year has been difficult, but it has also been a shining example of what this government can do when we set our minds to something – and what is possible when we work together as governments, communities, organisations and individuals. DM

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 1

  • Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted