‘Obey lockdown rules’

A Covid-19 vehicle checkpoint on the corner of Albert Road and Gympie Street, Woodstock.

If people don’t heed warnings from police officers to take Covid-19 seriously then arrests and fines will follow, says Woodstock’s acting police chief.

Colonel Alroy van der Berg says policing during the pandemic is not about being heavy handed. The primary role is one of awareness and education.

“Our job when speaking to the community members whose vehicle’s get pulled over is to educate them about the dangers of the virus and how we are working to keep the virus to a minimum.”

But sterner steps will be taken against those who don’t get the message. “If we have evidence that they are not complying, we would arrest them, fine them and bring them before court, though we hope that this won’t be necessary if people comply with the law,” he said.

The public needed to work with the police and not against them to beat the pandemic, he said.

There were still a lot of people walking around Woodstock, he said, urging the public — including essential-services workers and those out buying essential goods — to comply with the lockdown regulations.

Morale among officers was high, said Colonel Van der Berg .

“Our absenteeism has dropped and our presence at work has increased which is an indication of their commitment to work during this challenging period.”

Claremont’s acting station commander, Lieutenant Colonel Marnus Fourie, said none of them – even those with 35 years experience – had ever seen anything like what they were facing now.

“Our core function of crime combating has not changed, so roadblocks and compliance inspections are now the new normal.”

Officers were apprehensive as it took time to adjust to new laws and instructions.

“The members have adapted well to their functions and many of them are fathers and mothers who believe that they are making a difference for future generations.”

The community in the precinct had been very cooperative, but there were some who endangered their own lives and the lives of others and they needed to understand the country was in a state of disaster.

“This is a deadly disease, threatening the most vulnerable of our society.”

With more people staying at home, crime has dropped.

“We normally receive between 10 to 15 cases a day, and now we are receiving one to five cases a day, and we will be vigilant that there might be a surge in crime should the lockdown be lifted later,” he said.

Lansdowne police spokesman Sergeant Nkululeko Mnyaka said officers wore masks, and gloves and carried sanitiser. They would work with the military if needed, he said.

“All the staff members are positive and ready to assist the public during the lockdown period and police members are following regulations stipulated by the presidency to enforce lockdown.”

Police Minister General Bheki Cele has welcomed the drop in serious and violent crimes, attributing it, in part, to the alcohol ban.

Statistics he released compared the first week of lockdown to the same period last year: murders dropped from 326 to 94 cases, rapes from 699 to 101, aggravated assaults from 2 673 to 456; and hijackings, home and business robberies collectively dropped from 8 853 to 2 098 cases.

In the first days of lockdown, there had been a spike in complaints against the police, but those had since dropped, said General Cele. “The decrease in the number of complaints, which were high over the first days of the lockdown, reflects stabilisation and confirms that people are now beginning to understand the lockdown and are complying with the regulations, and that people are now cooperating with the members of the law enforcement entities.”

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said the province had seen a dramatic drop in crime during the lockdown, particularly murder with 31 cases in the first week of lockdown compared to 105 for the same period last year.

Policing inefficiency, he said, could be reported to the Western Cape Police Ombudsman, while cases of police and military brutality should be reported to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) or the Military Ombudsman, respectively.

Useful contact numbers

Western Cape Police Ombudsman: Ombudsman@wcpo.gov.za or visit www.westerncape.gov.za/police-ombudsman

Military Ombudsman: email intake@milombud.org or call 080 726 6283

Independent Police Investigative Directorate: email complaints@ipid.gov.za or visit www.ipid.gov.za

South African Police Service: 08600 10111 or use the MySAPS app

Emergency services: 107 or use Vodacom’s emergency services app

Inefficiencies related to Law Enforcement: RichardGavin.Bosman@capetown.gov.za

Law Enforcement: 021 480 770 / 021 596 1999

Emergency medical service: 10177 or use Vodacom’s emergency services app