Police shortages a concern, says CPF

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, and Jonathan Hobday, chairman of the Mowbray Community Police Forum.

Staff shortages at Mowbray police station were among the issues discussed at Mowbray Community Police Forum’s (CPF) recent public meeting.

At the start of the meeting on Tuesday November 5 at St George’s Grammar School, chairman Jonathan Hobday announced that the scheduled annual general meeting would not be taking place as the acting provincial commissioner, Lieutenant General Sindile Christopher Mfazi, had placed a moratorium on them, and that the meeting would be a normal meeting. This also meant that police, law enforcement and Metro officers were not present at the meeting.

During the meeting, a resident asked when Mowbray police station would be receiving additional staff, saying staff shortages often hampered crime prevention efforts. He said the morale of staff had also been at an all-time low – as longstanding members were not receiving promotions with newer members being promoted first.

“These shortages affect us as residents and members of the neighbourhood watch. If you are faced with a situation where there are six members on duty, two need to be in the office and the other four on the road but what if a member is booked off sick? These limited resources have an impact on the watch and its efforts, “ the resident said.

Mr Hobday said the station was understaffed by at least 30 members (almost half the regular complement), resulting in unacceptable levels of dysfunctionality and sub-standard service delivery.

“The thin blue line of policing is stretched almost to breaking-point and the reality is that the operations of sector policing is compromised. There is only one sector commander serving the two sectors and patrols are generally limited to one police vehicle for the whole precinct.

“This is having a deleterious effect on police visibility and reaction times, not to mention the stress on members of the police,” he said.

Mr Hobday said there was currently no functioning crime prevention unit and said the sudden death of the newly-appointed station commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jairaj Rameshwarnath, in July (“‘Always smiling’ station commander dies”, Tatler, July 25) also affected operations as the station continues to operate under an acting station commander.

“The staff shortages are putting the existing officers under constant and unbearable pressure. These concerns have become so compelling that the CPF’s executive committee has written to the Wynberg cluster commander to request an urgent meeting to seek re-assurances and discuss possible solutions,” he said.

The meeting, however, was attended by JP Smith, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, who spoke on his department’s plans going forward.

These included the appointment of additional security staff across the metro, which he believes is going to have an impact on reducing crime, especially in the hot spots.

“We realised that the only way to make an impact is to put resources in ourselves but this meant we have had to shift and relocate money from various departments,” he said.

Mr Smith said an additional 750 posts had been created through the Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme (MURP) and the extra boots could be expected to hit the streets early next year. He said Premier Alan Winde had also leveraged of his budget to create 3 000 posts.

Mr Smith said crime could not be viewed in isolation and for crime to decrease, attention had to be given to the justice system.

“We need to get the conviction rate up and look at the parole rate and the regular offenders. It’s no use we catch the criminals, only for them to be released three months later.”

He said there were many plans in the pipeline to stabilise crime, which include looking at enforcement of taxi by-laws, problem building by-laws, and strengthening relationships with neighbourhood watches.

Mowbray police acting station commander, Captain Ansley Jacobs, said he could not discuss the strength of the station and staff shortages but said the station’s festive season plan was in place and would be executed as planned.