The City of Cape Town’s enforcement agencies made 12 063 arrests in the previous financial year (excluding warrant arrests) – a 17% increase on the preceding period.
This was one of the many encouraging statistics that emerged from the Safety and Security Directorate’s annual statistics for the 2017/18 financial year.
The Directorate consists of six departments that focus on public safety and includes the 107 Public Emergency Communication Centre; Disaster Risk Management Centre; Fire and Rescue Service; Metro Police Department; Law Enforcement Department and Cape Town Traffic Service.
Some of the key trends that have emerged from the safety and security landscape in the preceding 12 months are:
Increase in land invasions and related protest action
Year-on-year there was a 53% increase in the number of land invasions recorded and a 249% increase in the number of protests. This resulted in a knock-on effect on planned enforcement operations for Law Enforcement, Metro Police and Traffic Services as resources had to be diverted to assist the South African Police Service in terms of public order policing, effecting road closures and diverting traffic etc. Apart from the fact that other enforcement priorities were compromised, there was also the cost of damage to City infrastructure and resources like buildings and vehicles, as well as a financial impact due to overtime costs.
From a Law Enforcement perspective, staff had to focus on transgressions of the Water By-law amid an increase in complaints from the public about water abuse, but also the very real threat to the city’s water supplies. In terms of the Disaster Risk Management Centre, there was a significant drop-off in the number of persons affected by severe weather episodes as well as the need for disaster relief. Cape Town experienced just one operationally significant winter storm in the period under review and this is evident in the DRMC’s statistics for 2017/18.
It is also worth noting that the Fire and Rescue Service recorded a 10% drop in vegetation fires during the period under review, which is most welcome, given the pressure we were under in terms of water supply.
Instability in the public transport sector
There were numerous taxi-related strikes during the past 12 months that impacted on other sectors. There was also a wage-related strike by bus operators and the ongoing service delays and arson attacks on Metrorail’s infrastructure are well documented. These disruptions took a toll on the affected commuters, but also placed additional strain on the road network and the enforcement staff whose duty it is to police transgressions.
We recorded a 100% increase in the number of overloading offences in the public transport sector. While there is no definitive proof, we cannot rule out the possibility that this might be a reflection of the battle that commuters have had and continue to have in getting to and from work, and the willingness of some operators to cash in on the instability in the sector – with no regard for the lives of their passengers.
Ongoing gang violence
There are at least 16 gang hotspots in Cape Town that experience a flare-up in violence on a regular basis. The Metro Police Department Gang and Drug Task Team, in association with the Law Enforcement Stabilisation Unit, devotes as much resources to these communities as possible, but resources are limited. It is important to note that the South African Police Service (SAPS) remains the primary agency responsible for tackling gang violence. The City acts in support of SAPS.
That said, our enforcement statistics for the period under review are up, year-on-year. The Metro Police Department achieved a 19% increase in arrests and a 39% increase in the number of firearms recovered through targeted operations. There was also a notable increase in the number of public tip-offs about illegal activities. This is particularly encouraging, because it speaks to a growing trust in the City’s enforcement agencies.
Increase in attacks on City staff and infrastructure
There have been numerous incidents in the past 12 months where City staff and infrastructure were targeted. This includes the torching of the Gugulethu Fire Station by protestors. Just this weekend, firefighters were attacked while responding to a fire in Wallacedene.
Criminals are becoming decidedly more brazen and are targeting staff for their firearms. The Metro Police Department noted a 180% increase in attacks on staff year-on-year, from 21 in 2016/17 to 59 in 2017/18.
The result is that we have to reconfigure our deployment patterns and have more officers working in groups to ensure their safety. The physical and psychological effect of these attacks cannot be ignored. An officer who has been traumatized by an attack needs time off work to recover; some do so sooner than others. What this means is fewer officers on patrol to ensure public safety.
A breakdown of statistics for the various departments is available here: http://City enforcement statistics on course
Our task is not without its challenges. One of those challenges is the consistent criticism we face from many quarters, often with no basis of understanding of the Directorate’s mandate. There is a lot of good work that is done on a daily basis to safeguard Cape Town and her residents and I commend the men and women who don the uniform in service to the public for what is often a thankless and very dangerous task.
Looking forward to some of the departmental priorities for the current financial year (1 July 2018 – 30 June 2019):
Metro Police Department:
• Further training and development of Youth Cadets
• Opening of Lakeside training facility
• Further rollout of the Neighbourhood Safety Team in Delft
• Looking to national government to do joint procurement for gunfire detection
• Numerous ward allocations for CCTV and Licence Plate Recognition installations (26 wards collectively invested R5,7 million)
Cape Town Traffic Service:
• Full rollout of the Random Breath Testing (RBT) vehicle for alcohol enforcement
• Procurement of specialised tow trucks for vehicle recovery/removal
• Establishment of multi-agency priority committee on protest action
• Expansion of the Facility Protection Officers
• Training and deployment of the Rail Enforcement Unit
• 24-hour services at five stations in the City (Muizenberg, Mfuleni, Big Bay, Parow, Beacon Valley)
• Volunteer Auxiliary Programme expansion (minimum of 200 staff by festive season)
• Dedicated unit for public awareness programmes
Disaster Risk Management:
• Review of the Disaster Risk Assessment for the City of Cape Town
• Assisting Early Childhood Development Centres with understanding and meeting compliance issues concerning safety requirements at these facilities
• Continuous monitoring of drought/water crisis
• Public education and awareness around the risk of wildland fires in the build-up to the dry summer season