This is an extremely damning but very forthright report which, if properly studied, will ensure that policing is improved dramatically in this district.
For policing to be effective, one needs to get the basics right but in our visits to some of the Police Stations in the Chris Hani District, it was clear that the police don’t even have the basics. They lack the rudmentary essentials. Here I am referring to functioning toilets and telephones. At the Bridge Camp police station we found that the telephone was out for more than a year. We were originally told three months but when I probed this matter further, they admitted that it was out for more than a year.
There were also no functioning toilets at this station. This station was also in an isolated area. How can the community phone in if they want to report a crime if telephones don’t work. The question that needs to be asked is “Why has this telephone been out for a year, what has the SAPS done to fix it and in fact, what has the Department of Safety and Liaison done to assist them in this problem.”
The fact that there were no functioning toilets at this station was not isolated. This occurred at others as well, namely Bholotwa. What does this do for the morale of personnel when there is no functioning toilet? The forest and the bush can never be a permanent option. The lack of this basic essential is an infringment on the dignity of our police personnel.
But more seriously, it has implications for fighting crime. If there are no functioning toilets, one cannot utilise the holding cells at the stations otherwise prisoners will simply escape when you take them to the bush.
At the Bridge Camp police station there was another very serious matter that we uncovered and that was the inputting of cases into the case administration system. As a result of problems with computers not working, not all cases are being inputted into the system. We were told by the station management that there were an average of 50 cases reported there every month. But when one looks at the crime statistics, one sees that there are only in the region of 270 cases reported for the year. What has happened to the rest?
This has very serious implications for the monitoring of crime patterns in the area and generally in the Province. If crime stats are not properly entered into the system, then a completely false picture can be reported with regard to crime in that particular locality and also in the Province in general. One wonders if this is an isolated incident for whether it is happening at other stations in this Province. The question that needs to be asked is that with all the monitoring that has been done by the Department of Safety and Liaison, why hasn’t this issue been picked up and what are they going to do about it?
Other problems that we picked up were that vehicles were generally too old or unsuitable for the terrain in which they were operating. When vehicles are constantly in the garage and breaking down, the police simply cannot do their job and investigate crime properly. How can detectives go out and do their job if there are no vehicles available?
What was also of concern is that many of the stations were not integrated into the 10111 centre. This also has implications for the reporting of crime and the response of police units when people are in trouble. Having functioning 10111 centres are people’s first port of call in a crisis. They need to function well so one can be assured of a rapid response from the SAPS when one’s life is in danger. What was also of concern is that many of the stations do not have functioning victim support centres. These centres play an important role in assisting victims of sexual offences. They need the privacy to be able to report their crimes with dignity – particularly after suffering the horrific violation of rape.
It was also reported to us that liquor plays a huge role in many of the violent crimes. What we simply need to do is a massive investigation into the number of liquor outlets in this Province and the impact that they are having on violent crime. We cannot allow liquor outlet after liquor outlet to mushroom when excessive use of liquor fuels violent crime. The Provincial Liquor Act needs to be amended so that no liquor outlet can be established unless that particular area has been zoned for that purpose by a Municipality.
The news is not all bad. The whittlesea police station stood out like a shining light. Crime statistics consistently show a big downward trend, despite problems with vehicles and computers. This station is making big inroads into reducing crime. We were told that the reason for this is the good relationship between the SAPS and the community as well as crime intelligence. It was clear that the Police have the trust of the community and we were told that the community knows every police person by name.
There is off course another reason why this station has been so successful and has been reportedly the best police station in the Eastern Cape for the last three years. It is because of the leadership at this station. When one compares the good stations with the bad stations, it is clear that the will to lead and make a difference is the decisive factor. What we need to ensure in the SAPS is that there is strong, dedicated and committed leadership that is focussed on serving the community. Dysfunctional police stations are not just as a result of lack of basic equipment and essentials. They are also as a result of poor leadership.
We need to engender a culture of service excellence in this district and the Whittlesea police station shows that it can be done.