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Pic: bruinou.com

Pic: bruinou.com

The Western Cape Government welcomes the deployment of an anti-gang unit in the province.

The unit was launched today in Hanover Park. Premier Helen Zille and Community Safety Minister Alan Winde were present alongside President Cyril Ramaphosa, national Police Minister Bheki Cele, and SAPS leadership.

Premier Helen Zille said: “We have made consistent calls for the full reinstatement of Specialised Gang, Gun & Drug Units since their abolition in 2012. The drug floodgates opened in the wake of the disbandment of these units, with 36% of all drug related crime and 83% of all gang-related murders taking place in the Western Cape according to the latest crime stats.”

Zille said that, in this context, any additional resources to help address the high levels of crime are to be welcomed. Key questions on this unit remain unanswered, however, including:

What has become of the 2016 State of the Nation promise to re-introduce fully-fledged Gang, Gun and Drug Specialised Units? Are these 95 officers all we can expect in this regard?
Will this unit be operationalised by robbing police personnel from one part of the province to deploy to another?
Do these 95 officers form part of the temporary deployment of an additional 257 saps officers under Operation Thunder, or are they new deployments?
How effective could 95 officers be in tackling the scale of the gangs, guns and drugs problem?

Minister Alan Winde said: “Since the disbandment of specialised units, it is estimated that thousands of lives have been lost due to gang violence. This means many families have had to bury a loved one. We stand with the residents of our province today, in the hope that this unit will have a noticeable impact in combatting gang, gun and drug crime in our most affected communities.

As a provincial government we do not hold the mandate for policing, but we have worked hard to support SAPS through successful community partnerships in crime prevention where we have a constitutional mandate to act. We have also intensified our oversight function to ensure greater accountability and police professionalism.”

Over the years this has included the establishment of the O Regan/Pikoli Commission, the promulgation of the Community Safety Act (which defined the Province’s oversight functions) and the creation of the Western Cape Ombudsman.

“Now we want to go even further. We are going to place a big emphasis on innovation and safety partnerships going forward. To date our initiatives have focused on specialised support to Neighbourhood Watches, Community Policing Forums, funding for School Resource Officers, strategic safety partnerships with the religious fraternity and various programmes aimed at our youth,” said Minister Winde.

Winde added that these efforts to support SAPS are working, given the reduction in the categories of crime where community partnerships can have a significant impact, such as the 6,8% decrease in property-related crime.

The latest crime stats also show a significant 23% increase in arrests over the same period, which is partly a result of increased willingness by the community to help and support the police in detecting criminals.

“Certain categories are however not conducive to significant reduction through community involvement. These include murder (up 12,6%) and attempted murder (up 9,2%). Of all murders, 22% are gang-related. These crimes need to be combatted by a well-resourced SAPS and high conviction rates. However, conviction rates for gang-related crime remain as low as 2% in some precincts. I will be discussing these matters, and others, with Provincial Police Commissioner General Jula when I meet with him next week,” Winde added.

Further statistics that demonstrate the police under-resourcing problem include:

– As much as 85% of police stations in the Western Cape do not have the necessary manpower or resources to affectively address crime, according to oversight conducted by the Provincial Parliament

– The average police-to-population ratio for the Western Cape currently stands at 1:509 and for Cape Town even worse at 1:560. This is much higher than the national average of 1:369.

– The average police to population ratio for the stations with the highest counts of murder and attempted murder in the province are far beyond the national average and include: Nyanga – 1 per 628; Philippi East – 1 per 344; Delft – 1 per 642; Khayelitsha – 1 per 521; Kraaifontein – 1 per 609; Gugulethu – 1 per 590; Mfuleni – 1 per 529; Harare – 1 per 745; Mitchells Plain – 1 per 472; Bishop Lavis – 1 per 442.

The Western Cape has a long history of fighting for the necessary policing resources, with extensive efforts made by the Province, City, civil society and communities.

These include:

· The Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry established by Premier Zille in 2014. Amongst many key recommendations, was the instruction for SAPS to change the model by which Human Resources are allocated to police stations

· The Annual Policing Needs and Priorities Reports submitted to national government by our Community Safety department, in consultation with communities

· The Public Hearings conducted in 2017 into police under-resourcing by Provincial Parliament’s Standing Committee on Community Safety. These hearings gave communities a voice and uncovered shocking statistics such as 85% of all police stations being under-resourced, and the steep decline in reservist numbers

· The subsequent Public Service Commission investigation into policing resources, which resulted in an instruction to SAPS to fill all critical vacancies on the fixed establishment within 6 months

· A total of 12 formal demands by the Premier to the National Executive calling for the deployment of the SANDF as a peace-keeping measure to support SAPS

· A recent high-level Western Cape Cabinet engagement with the provincial SAPS top brass to discuss key breakdowns in the criminal justice system

On 10 October 2018, the Western Cape Cabinet resolved to make the following key demands to Police Minister Bheki Cele:

· That the Police Minister makes an urgent allocation of additional policing personnel to the Western Cape via a supplementation of the Fixed Establishment of policing posts in the province in terms of our rights under section 206 of the Constitution.

· Confirmation by the National SAPS Commissioner that the “critical posts” referred to by the PSC in its report will be filled within 6 months. Further, that the allocation of these additional personnel both critical and otherwise) will be focused on addressing this province’s needs and priorities i.e. gang-related crime; Rail safety; Ongoing attacks on schools; the protection of infrastructure and essential services such as Emergency Medical Services (EMS); and public order policing

· Confirmation by the Police Minister that he will support the Western Cape Government’s offer to fund the uptake by SAPS of additional policing reservists to further bolster SAPS’s resources in this Province, and to agree to the offer made for the Province’s 84 000 employees to take up administrative relief work at identified stations in support of SAPS’ personnel.

Premier Zille said: “We look forward to receiving the Police Minister’s response in this regard. Rest assured that the Western Cape Government will continue to be willing partners to SAPS. We also do everything in power to promote the “whole of society” approach to combatting crime, and to foster the necessary safety partnerships to achieve this.”

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