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Shocking though the 118 insurance claims for theft and vandalism at libraries and clinics over the last nine months may be, the City is seeing a reduction in the frequency of these activities over time. Read more below:

The City of Cape Town’s Social Services Directorate is counting the cost of continual vandalism and theft at some of its most crucial service centres.

Since July last year, libraries and clinics have submitted 118 insurance claims between them, totalling nearly R800 000 – largely as a result of theft, malicious damage to property, and burglaries. Of the claims at clinics, only 12% were the result of accidental damage like burst geysers and pipes.

‘Vandalism of community facilities is problematic for a number of reasons. Not only does it disrupt vital services to some of the most vulnerable individuals in a community, but it also has an impact on staff and community morale. It leaves the City in the position where we have to stall new developments and improvements planned for our clinics and libraries because we’re having to divert funds to fix and replace vandalised or stolen infrastructure.‘At our libraries, the theft of cables and computers can often leave a community without access to SmartCape services, and therefore the worldwide web, for months. The delay in regaining connection is particularly long in cases where the Telkom cables are stolen. Many people rely on our library computers and free internet service to look for jobs and for correspondence learning, and the lack of connection has a massive impact on their lives. We are rolling out broadband infrastructure to our libraries as quickly as possible in the hope that it will reduce the risk of cable theft in future,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.

City Health has submitted 60 claims between July 2016 and 7 April 2017 at 31 facilities, totalling just under R400 000. During the same period last year, the Department submitted 104 claims for over R750 000. Nyanga Clinic has accounted for 11 of the claims.

The City’s Library and Information Services Department has submitted 58 claims, totalling nearly R380 000 thus far this financial year. Delft Library has amassed 10 claims in the current financial year, and while Hanover Park Library has only submitted three claims, these amounted to R130 000. This compared to 115 claims totalling R671 107, 53 in 2015/16 and 208 claims totalling R1 439 454, 40 in 2014/15.

‘The statistics offer a glimmer of hope that our constant appeals to the public to report suspicious behaviour are not in vain, but there is a long road still to walk. The City spends millions every year on security measures at facilities. We’ve also recently piloted a project in Nyanga and Gugulethu where 50 neighbourhood watch members and eight auxiliary law enforcement officers have been employed as facility protection officers. This initiative creates a visible presence around high-risk facilities and the people employed know the area well and have a vested interest in safeguarding their communities. The project is achieving amazing results, with not a single facility vandalised in this area since the start thereof.

‘These results bode well for the expansion of this project to other areas going forward in the coming financial year. Recreation and Parks Department staff at the Gugulethu Sports Complex told me that the deployment of the facility protection officers has completely changed the atmosphere at the venue and their focus can now be on running programmes with the youth and not looking over their shoulder at the front door to see whether criminals are sneaking in.

‘However, ultimately we cannot build the safe and inclusive city envisioned in the Organisational Development and Transformation Plan without the cooperation of residents. Many communities know who the thieves and vandals are, but turn a blind eye. I challenge residents to out these individuals who are robbing their children of access to medical care and young people from access to learning materials and ultimately, a better future. The City also has an informant reward policy that allows us to pay R1 000 to anyone who provides information that results in the successful prosecution of these criminals,’ added Alderman Smith.

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