Grassy Park police have a new commander at the helm and community structures are excited about the future.
Lieutenant Colonel Dawood Laing was assigned station commander at Grassy Park police station at the beginning of December last year.
Over the past few years Grassy Park station has been in the spotlight because of its leadership (“Police called to task”, Southern Mail, March 15, 2017) and in 2017 some neighbourhood watches, the Grassy Park Community Police Forum and other structures protested for the removal of then station commander Colonel Shawn van Wyk.
Poor service delivery, lack of response to call-outs and corruption were some of the issues highlighted and residents were concerned that the Grassy Park police were unable to carry out their mandate to protect and serve. Low morale, lack of resources and officers exacerbated the situation.
After Lieutenant Colonel Van Wyk was removed as station commander and after nearly two years of uncertainty, Lieutenant Colonel Laing was announced as the new station commander.
Colonel Laing joined the police force in 1981 and served with the VIP Unit, Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain, Nyanga and Philippi police stations before being appointed station commander at Grassy Park police station on Saturday December 1.
The Bellville resident said Grassy Park and the type of crime in the area were nothing new to him.
“Coming from Mitchell’s Plain where I worked for eight years and Philippi for five years, the three stations have the same offences and same circumstances. Socio economic issues, social moral decay, gangsterism, drugs, unemployment and informal settlements are just some of the things that contribute to crime and I am well-acquainted with and I know exactly how to address these issues because of the experience that I’ve had at the previous stations,” said Lieutenant Colonel Laing.
Asked what some of the most pressing issues on his agenda were, Lieutenant Colonel Laing said implementing strategies was one of his first priorities.
“The Western Cape Anti-Gang Unit strategy is very relevant to the issues faced in the area and I’ve picked up that some of those strategies are not fully in place here. Even though drug runners are caught, they did not focus on the big leaders.
“The Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) was never fully implemented at the station which focuses on the leaders of the gang, their assets and those kind of things. The biggest challenge will be building a specific database to group all gangsters and drug distributors and then start monitoring their movements. We will then fully enforce the POCA and I believe this will go a long way to cripple these criminal structures,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Laing also plans to build and strengthen trust and relationships with residents and community structures. “There is not a school principals’ forum and I want to create one,” he said.
“I am planning to implement the adopt-a-cop system where each officer at the station gets a school assigned to them and that officer will be the liaison officer between the school and the police. I also want to implement a walking bus route to and from schools as this initiative has seen a decrease in crime and ill discipline in other areas,” said Lieutenant Colonel Laing.
He added that religious structures were also very important parts of the community because they were supposed to uphold morals. He would therefore also focus on strengthening his relationships with them.
He also plans to address shebeens which sell liquor to children.
“This needs to be addressed because this leads to several other issues within the community.
“I am ready to tackle these issues head-on and will also address internal problems at the station. In these first few months I will not be out in the community as much as I would want to be because I want to get our house in order,” said Lieutenant Colonel Laing.
He added that he would work with all Grassy Park officers to address morale, their responsibilities and encourage them to feel proud of themselves again.
“Management will be held more accountable for their specific roles and responsibilities. Corruption will also not be tolerated and I will take every complaint about corruption seriously and I will investigate,” he said.
“I have an open door policy and I want to work with the community because they are the eyes and ears.
“We need them, the neighbourhood watches and structures to work with us to address the crime in the precinct, so I implore people to supply information about crime and we will do what we have to do.”
The Grassy Park CPF welcomed Lieutenant Colonel Laing’s appointment.
Chairperson Fuad Titus wished him well in the “difficult task of managing the local forces” that would ensure the safety of the community.
“We believe he is well qualified to perform the management function under trying circumstances. The CPF pledges to support him in all endeavours to make community policing a reality in Grassy Park.
“The station has been without a commander for a long time and we look forward to effective community policing in our area,” said Mr Titus.
Because the precinct includes areas where violent crime was prevalent, he said, “we need a firm hand to stop gun violence and to remove guns from our neighbourhoods”.
“From reports of the new station commander’s handling of such situations in his previous postings, we are living in hope that the days of the cowardly gun-wielding thugs will be numbered,” he said.
“The CPF calls on all law-abiding citizens to play their part in making policing in our area better.
“One of the problems experienced in combating crime is the reluctance of complainants to make statements and open cases so that the criminals can be prosecuted.
“We say: see something; say something and do something,” said Mr Titus.