BOBBY STEVENSON SPEAKING IN THE DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL OVERSIGHT AND ANNUAL REPORT OF THE SAPS IN THE PROVINCIAL LEGISLATURE

We are still awaiting the 300 new vehicles that were allocated to this Province at the beginning of the new financial year, to arrive. We are already 9 months into the financial year. This is having a very serious impact on police services in this Province. This is particularly so of the Flying Squads in our two biggest cities, the Nelson Mandela Metropole and Buffalo City.

The flying squad based in Port Elizabeth should have at least 9 functioning vehicles. It is now down to 3. They are the three SAABS that were recently donated by General Motors. If it was not for the 3 donated SAAB vehicles that were received a few months ago, the flying squad would have come to a standstill.

While the pile of boarded and scrapped vehicles continues to rise, the number of available and functional vehicles continues to decline.

The new financial year commenced in April this year and 9 sedans and one LDV were allocated to the Police emergency services in Port Elizabeth which incorporates the flying squad and the dog unit. Not one of these vehicles has been received. There is also a lack of funds for maintenance of these vehicles.

This means that the SAABS are now clocking up 12 000 km per month instead of 6000 or 7000 km. There is no money allocated to the unit for repairs for the SAABS for replacement of tyres for example. One SAAB has a cracked windscreen that needs attention but nothing can be done as the fleet manager has no budget against these vehicles.

Similar problems exist with the East London flying squad. According to a parliamentary question I asked earlier on this year, there are only two operational vehicles at any given time. Yesterday there was only one vehicle fully operational for the East London flying squad. One new vehicle has been allocated to it, Romeo 8 but it has yet to have a radio, blue lights and a siren fitted. The East London flying squad should have at least 10 functional vehicles.

When I raised this issue in the committee, I was informed that it is not so much of a problem because vehicles from stations are allocated out to deal with 10111 calls. Every member of this house knows that there is a problem with police response to crimes and they are simply not at an acceptable level.

It was only yesterday that my office received a complaint that a Mdantsane Flying Squad Vehicle, White Jetta with registration Number BRD 817 B with RM 4 written on the side, was parked at a townhouse complex in Beacon Bay. The vehicle is regularly parked there afternoons and weekends at a time. This at a time when there is a shortage vehicles for the East London flying squad.

The flying squads are generally well disciplined units that pride themselves on their success in fighting crime. They need to be given the tools to do their jobs. Whereas it might be true that station vehicles are sent to deal with a lot of the 10111 centre calls, it is the real crime in progress situations that you need a fully resourced flying squad to respond to. The flying squads are geared up to deal with house robberies in progress, cash in transit heists and with bank robberies. If you are investigating a shoplifting incident in the Greenacres or Hemmingway’s Shopping Complex, it will take you at least 10 minutes to get out of one of those centres and onto the road.

This is why we cannot rely totally on station vehicles to respond to serious crimes in progress.

The Flying squad deals with all major incidents and emergencies around the Nelson Mandela Metropole and form part of the disaster management for the Nelson Mandela Metropole Municipality. With the 2010 world cup looming, we need a properly resourced flying squad to deal with any emergency situations that might arise.

Honourable Speaker where the Democratic Alliance differs with the current approach to policing is that we believe that there is much emphasis on visible policing and not enough emphasis on rapid response units and crime detection. What the Democratic Alliance is calling for is for the flying squads, at least in our major cities, to be properly and fully resourced. In this way the public will have greater confidence in the SAPS to respond to crime. It is nothing short of a disgrace that flying squads have to operate with such limited resources and have to rely on donations from motor companies in order to be able to function properly but thank you very much to General Motors.

We need to put much greater emphasis on the ability of the SAPS to respond to crimes in progress. That is one way when criminals know that they are going to be caught, that is when you will be more effective in bringing the crime levels down.

A related point to this is the ability to catch criminals through efficient detective work. Currently the case load for detectives in this Province is 1 to 100. It should be 1 detective for 20 cases. Clearly when detectives are so overworked, it is impossible for them to do their job properly. We also need to beef up our detective capacity when it comes to detecting commercial crimes.

In short what I am saying is that we need to be able to catch the criminals when crimes are in progress. For that one needs rapid response units that are effective and secondly one needs a radically improved detective service with the ability and expertise to track down crime.

The Democratic Alliance demands that the Department of Safety, Liaison and the SAPS take immediate action to deal with this totally unacceptable state of affairs. We all know that there is an increase in cash in transit heists, bank robberies and robberies of businesses in the run up to the festive season. The flying squads in our major cities cannot enter into the festive season and be able to deal with crime effectively with the existing resources. The Department and the top management of the SAPS are fully aware of this problem – the time for action is now.