The debate on Eastern Cape Premier’s State of the Province Address took place in the Bhisho legislature on Tuesday, 23 February.
“Use technology to fight crime”
The Honourable Premier on page of his Speech stated “We are reasonably satisfied with the progress we are making in the fight against crime.” There are many residents in this province who would disagree with that statement. Whatever the crime statistics might show, the level of crime, particularly of violent crime is still far too high in this province. The procedure of only releasing crime statistics in September for the proceeding financial year means they are outdated. What communities require is regular crime statistics.
The Western Cape government is currently introducing regulations to make provisions for the quarterly release of crime statistics. I would suggest that this province follows suit. Communities have the right to know as to what is happening in their neighbourhoods. If we are going to win the fight against crime in this province, then the provincial lead department needs to be re-energised. It needs to give visionary leadership that is required to galvanise communities to act as a collective force to reduce crime.
Some time ago the Honourable Premier appointed the Head of the Department of Safety and Liaison to head up a task team to fight gangsterism in Port Elizabeth. I am interested to hear from the Premier what progress has been made by that task team. If we are to fight crime effectively then we need to take ourselves up a notch or two and utilise technology more effectively. This calls for effective partnerships between the department, the SAPS and Municipalities.
One of the most effective ways of improving the fight against crime is through the utilisation of surveillance cameras. When I was the portfolio councillor for Safety and Security in Nelson Mandela Bay in the 90’s when there were multi-party executives, we introduced CCTV cameras in the Govan Mbeki Avenue. This helped to reduce crime by 60% in the CBD. I am informed that there are many surveillance cameras in Nelson Mandela Bay but many of them are either not monitored or simply not working. MEC, your department needs to look into this matter and to see how a partnership can be developed between the municipality and the SAPS to ensure that these cameras are properly monitored.
Secondly, the department should lead a campaign to ensure automatic number plate recognition cameras are erected in strategic parts of this province. There are two kinds, static and mobile. When a crime is committed and a number plate number can be obtained, it can be fed into the system. So as the vehicle then moves around a city or province it can be identified and tracked.
Thirdly mobile cameras placed on top of traffic vehicles can identify stolen vehicles, warrants that are outstanding, wanted suspects and unlicensed vehicles. How many of these are currently operating in the province, Honourable Premier?
The honourable Premier also spoke about the high accident rate on our roads. One of the ways of dealing with high accident rates is to reduce the speed. For this time over distance cameras will be needed. If these were erected on our roads, they would automatically be able to find motorists who exceed the speed limit. Again I ask, how many are currently operational in our province.
I would also like to know how many of the morph0 touch fingerprint machines are currently operational. When police conduct raids or random stop and searches, these machines assist in identifying wanted criminals.
By harnessing these aspects of technology effectively, this province could make a much greater dent on our high crime rate. They would also assist in combating gangsterism in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth.
Together with more effective crime intelligence, what one actually needs is saturated and high visibility policing in hot spot areas with continuous searches of vehicles and people.
This would ultimately curtail the movement of gangs.
I believe that the department should lead a campaign to recruit police reservists in this province and ensure that they have all have done their firearm competency testing. There are many people who would like to volunteer and assist in the fight against crime and training a police reservist will assist in this cause.
The Honourable President in his reply to the State of the Nation Address mentioned that the two specialised units would be re-established, the one is the Narcotics Bureau and the other is a specialised unit dealing with firearm and violent crime. This is something that the Democratic Alliance has been calling for ever since the former Commissioner of Police Jackie Selebi disbanded them.
The problem of gangs and drugs are an international problem, without specialised units we cannot combat these scourges effectively. I call on the Premier to monitor the implementation of the specialised units and ensure that they are operational in this province as soon as possible.
The Premier also called for the implementation of community safety forums in all our municipalities, these are municipal wide bodies that co-ordinate all the key role players in a municipality. Nothing is more urgent than ensuring an effective community safety forum operates in Nelson Mandela Bay. This is a community under siege; it is living in a war zone. Crime is out of control in this area, it needs effective, co-ordinated action to beat it. The department of Safety and Liaison Honourable Premier need to rise to this challenge and report back to this House on what steps it is taking to do so.