The laziest mudslinging narrative that opposition parties have tried to fling at the Western Cape Government (WCG) is to say that there is not enough done for our poorer communities when the facts do not support this.
This was recently demonstrated by the disingenuous article by Good Party MP and Secretary-General Brett Herron, “Something rotten when there are more drug dens than schools in Western Cape” (Daily Maverick 11 June, 2023).
Let me state some facts.
In 2021, while I was the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Community Safety, I requested that the Western Cape Police Ombudsman (WCPO) investigate why the South African Police Services (SAPS) were failing to close drug houses.
Had it not been for this investigation initiated by us, we would perhaps still not know that there are more drug houses than schools in the province. In fact, due to our persistence in keeping this matter front and centre, more residents are now informing law enforcement where these drug houses are.
There is a long road ahead for SAPS and all law enforcement agencies in the province to make inroads in fighting crime and keeping drugs off our streets, but knowledge is power. Knowing where the problem is means knowing where to target our resources.
The WCG has long campaigned for greater policing powers to be devolved to the provincial government. This is because while we are very diligent about exercising our oversight function as a provincial government, we want to do more but are limited in what we can do because many of these responsibilities lie with the national government-controlled SAPS.
This has however not stopped us from stepping up and stepping in, doing what we can within the confines of the law, and demonstrating that given the opportunity we can and will do much more to reduce crime for the citizens of this province.
The Western Cape Safety Plan (WCSP) guides our interventions. This includes the Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (Leap) officers which is run in partnership with the City of Cape Town, and our Rural Safety and K-9 Units in identified municipalities in the province outside of the metro.
Utilising data and evidence, our Leap officers are deployed in murder hotspot areas. These areas are Delft, Gugulethu, Harare, Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Mfuleni, Mitchells Plain, Nyanga, Philippi East and Samora Machel. Other high-crime areas in which they are deployed are Atlantis, Bishop Lavis and Hanover Park, along with Lavender Hill, Steenberg and Grassy Park.
Since inception, our Leap officers have confiscated 371 firearms, while arresting 17,291 suspects for an array of offences. They are active in areas where the need is greatest, which is often in poorer communities.
On a regular basis, our Leap officers confiscate large quantities of drugs and arrest individuals for dealing in illegal substances. Between 1 May 2023 and 4 June 2023, 26 arrests were made for dealing in drugs, while 903 people were arrested for the possession of drugs.
Our Leap officers assist the SAPS daily and strengthen their hand in the fight against all forms of crime, all of this in the areas where the crime rate is highest.
This WCG has invested over R1-billion in Leap to fight crime. For the current 2022/23 financial year, R350-million has been set aside for Leap, along with an additional R10-million for the establishment of Leap stations. This is ensuring continued and greater visibility on the ground.
Our Leap stations will add another dimension in our efforts to not only reduce the murder rate, but to tackle factors such as the illicit drug trade so that safer communities are created.
We are fixated on provincial safety, and not just in one area, but the entire Western Cape. We currently have two K-9 units based in the Swartland and Overstrand Municipal areas. These units do, however, not only operate within the boundaries of the local municipalities. Instead, they work throughout the respective districts where the local municipality is, i.e. West Coast and Overberg districts. In less than a month, the Mossel Bay K-9 unit will also come online.
The Overstrand K-9 Unit regularly assists with the discovery of illegally poached abalone and other illicit items. They are making huge inroads along the coastal areas, protecting both man and marine life.
So too the Swartland unit, which earlier this year played a key role in the discovery of a large cache of firearms and ammunition at a warehouse in the Malmesbury area. SAPS themselves acknowledged that the support and assistance from the unit was immense.
For the current financial year, R19.6-million has been allocated for the further support of these units.
In addition to this, we have two rural safety units also based in the Swartland and Overstrand Municipalities. Similar to the K-9 units, they also operate throughout their respective districts. For this financial year, R9.5-million has been allocated for the resourcing and continued support of these units. Extra visibility and extra boots on the ground, made possible by the Western Cape Government.
We cannot exclude our superhuman beings, who are an immense presence in their communities. These are the brave volunteers in our neighbourhood and farm watches, along with our community policing forums. These over 15,000 men and women across our province continue to contribute significantly to making the various law enforcement agencies aware of where crime is occurring and where drug houses are located. DM