The Rail Enforcement Unit (REU) was launched by the National Minister of Transport during October 2018, coinciding with Transport Month. Its impact on the improved safety of Metrorail commuters and rail infrastructure can be observed in numerous arrests and the recovery of stolen infrastructure. Read more below:
The REU is jointly funded by the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA). The unit provides an additional 100 Law Enforcement officers to the existing security personnel in meeting Metrorail’s security challenges. These include sustained attacks on rail infrastructure and rolling stock assets, the sabotage of the urban rail network, and criminals targeting commuters and rail employees.
‘The people of Cape Town deserve a safe and reliable public transport system. Rail should be commuters’ mode of choice because commuting by rail is more affordable, and it’s the most efficient mode of transport when operating optimally. The REU’s successes to date give me good reason to believe that this unit will assist us in stabilising the urban rail service over the next few months. With less crime and vandalism, we can expect a decrease in delays and cancellations, and with that we can expect more commuters opting for trains as opposed to road-based transport,’ said the City’s Executive Mayor, Dan Plato.
The REU has recorded the following successes during the first two months:
– 36 arrests on a range of charges including assault, possession of drugs and stolen property, malicious damage to property and theft
– Confiscations of 379,5 metres of cable and 800 kilograms of railway signal cable
– Confiscated contraband and suspected stolen goods, including 21 cellphones, two laptops, drugs and alcohol
– Issued 67 Section 56 notices to appear in court
– Issued 97 Section 341 notices
– 332 inspections of hot spot areas and scrapyards.
At least six of the arrests were made in terms of Section 18 of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act of 2015, which makes provision for a person convicted of tampering with or damaging essential infrastructure, to be imprisoned for a period not exceeding 30 years. These cases will be followed closely as the work of the REU will only be truly effective if all players in the criminal justice system work together.
The REU has been a force multiplier for PRASA’s regional Protection Services Unit. Together, the teams have ensured greater operational visibility on trains and stations, searching more individuals during joint operations, confiscating a greater number of dangerous weapons and fraudulent train tickets.
‘With enforcement success on track, the next priority should be closing down non-compliant scrap dealers and lobbying for legislative changes to permit only traceable electronic payment methods. The current practice of cash-for-copper-no-questions-asked encourages illegal and illicit scrap dealing,’ said Metrorail Western Cape’s Regional Manager, Richard Walker.
The promulgation of two enabling laws in the fight against metal theft (the CMAA and the amended Second Hand Goods Act), in addition to the deployment of technology and forensic resources, has enabled PRASA to secure 198 offenders in custody, successfully prosecute 17 offenders and rack up a total of 95 years jail sentences.
‘When we launched this initiative our intention was to increase security on our rail network as the situation had reached dire straits with arson, vandalism, cable theft, and violent crime becoming commonplace. An intervention was urgently required, and through effective intergovernmental cooperation we were able to get the REU off the ground. The initial results and arrests are testament to the initiative’s effectiveness and our officers’ commitment on the ground. Our Rail Management Task Team (RMTT) is continuing to explore ways in which to dramatically improve rail for the thousands of commuters who rely on this mode of transport,’ said the Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works and Chairperson of the RMTT, Donald Grant.
As the 2019 academic and work year takes off, the number of commuters making use of public transport will increase. All stakeholders are committed to ensuring that the REU, in association with other enforcement agencies across the three spheres of government, work tirelessly towards a safer and more reliable commute for all.
The public can assist these efforts by reporting crime and vandalism, as this forms part of the intelligence that drives deployment and operations.
Illicit and suspicious activity may be reported to any number listed below:
Metrorail Protection Services hot-line: 021 449 4336/5056
RRPU Cape Town (platform 1): 021 443 4325
RRPU Bellville: 021 941 6800
RRPU Philippi/Stock Road: 021 370 1011
RRPU Retreat: 021 710 5129
RRPU Radio Control/OPS room: 021 449 4309/10
SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 10111
Crime line: SMS 32211
Rewards of up to R25 000 are payable for information leading to a successful conviction.