Workshop highlights safety plan

ROSHAN ABRAHAMS

The Department of Community Safety held a two-day workshop for the Mitchell’s Plain Police Cluster to share their safety plan and highlight policing needs and priorities, at the Retreat Community hall, on Friday June 3 and Saturday June 4.

The eight areas which form the cluster are Grassy Park, Steenberg, Athlone, Lansdowne, Lente-geur, Mitchell’s Plain, Philippi and Strandfontein.

Representatives who attended the meeting on Friday included police, the community police forums (CPFs) and neighbourhood watches who had the opportunity to make statements and ask questions regarding safety and crime prevention.

The key speakers, on Friday, were Community Safety MEC, Dan Plato; chairperson of the CPF cluster, Hanif Loonat; and Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, who outlined the safety plan for the next financial year.

Mr Loonat said he was sceptical about the meeting and he wanted to boycott the workshop, but he realised it may cause “mayhem” and decided to hear what the Department of Community Safety had planned.

On Friday, Mr Loonat outlined some of the challenges the CPFs are facing. He referred to the killing of six-year-old Saadiqah Lippert in Bokmakierie, Athlone, on Monday May 2. Saadiqah, a Grade 1 pupil, was shot in the stomach and later died in hospital.

Mr Loonat was traumatised by the incident. “I saw this little girl shot and I saw blood oozing from her stomach,” he said.

“It affected me physically and mentally.”

Mr Loonat said the CPF’s role is to support the community and if they were given the required resources they could be proactive in helping the community.

“We need to know where we put our funds and in the financial year we must stop politicising. We must take our political hats off because crime has no race nor political allegiance,” said Mr Loonat.

Mr Plato responded, saying that he was grateful to the CPFs who are making a “helluva difference in community safety in areas such as New Horizon.”

He said although the police officers in the cluster are doing their best to fight crime, the problem still exists. “We find that Mitchell’s Plain is a drug capital taking over from Nyanga,” he said.

“We need to unite because we can’t have people killed on a daily basis outside. However, inside, there is only one place where you can air your views and it is in a boardroom like this.”

He said neighbourhood watches have the constitutional right to ask to be legalised. “However, the police are responsible for establishing CPFs which play an invaluable role in society. The CPF’s constitutional right is to monitor police conduct. And we must rid CPFs who muster their political ambitions,” he said.

After Mr Plato’s speech, Southern Mail asked Ward 68 councillor, Marita Petersen, and chairperson of the Boundaries Neighbourhood Watch, Henry Moses, what they aimed to get out of the talks.

Mr Moses said: “If only we could have police vans not only driving up and down our roads, but also stopping and searching criminals. We also need more police on foot and on bicycles. We understand that SAPS have a lack of staff, so if the community get involved in preventing crime, it will help.”

Ms Petersen agreed: “If all parties find common ground on safety issues, then there should not be complications.”

Lucinda Evans, CPF chairperson of Steenberg, questioned JP Smith, asking for better communication between CPFs and ward councillors.

Safety plan

Mr Smith presented the meeting with a five-point “game changer” safety plan, which will be effective from September.

1 A strong focus was to empower neighbourhood watches. R2.7million will be allocated for training, equipment such as jackets, hand radios, bicycles as well as containers.

He said neighbourhood watches are the most “powerful tools” in fighting all types of crime such as property crime and business crime.

“We’ve trained 4 000 neighbourhood watch members in the last three years and we are going to increase that training with more practical training and will be handing out certificates for them after the training.”

Next year, he said, they will allocate R4 million for training and equipment and it will only be provided to accredited neighbourhood watches.

2 Resources such as hand-radios will be given out to allow neighbourhood watches to speak to each other in a cluster model linked to a law enforcement control room which SAPS will also have access to.

“The neighbourhood watches will form an extension of the police,” he said.

The sector vehicles will have cameras linked to community service centres to keep them in the loop. Dashboard cameras will be installed in police vehicles to capture, for example, criminals’ licence plates and other data.

“The CCTV camera budget for poorer communities is R2.3 million which will be allocated from the ward councillors’ budget.

3 There will be a huge investment in training reservists.

* The City has 500 auxiliary members. R1million will be allocated to this year’s police reservists and R6 million for next year. “The recruitment will only be for neighbourhood watch members. So if you are not a trained neighbourhood watch member or an auxiliary member you cannot be a reservist,” he said.

* The Fire Department has 38 reservists in disaster management

* The Traffic department will be working with the MEC for Transport to recruite traffic reservists through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

Police are under-resourced in information technology. The launch of a computer with a tracker on vehicles to monitor what police drivers are doing, will be sourced.

Mr Smith said: “Through part- nership funding with businesses police officers will be provided with 100 tablets and 3 000 cellphones.

4 Training colleges received R100 million for recruits.

Two extra fire stations were erected costing R15 to R18 million each, in Langa and Masiphumulele

5 Crime Intelligence policing is critical: A data system will be set up with criminal record information. Informants will be paid.

For example, if a neighbour watch has a CCTV camera in place, they will be able to get a picture of the criminals. Detectives will be able to log in this information to plug into the data to check criminal activities. Four analysts will be employed to manage the information management service.