New neighbourhood cops ain’t no bobbies on the beat
Cape Town has a bright new plan for its wards in a bid to stem the tide of crime in SA's most dangerous city
Each and every one of Cape Town’s 116 wards will have a dedicated law enforcement officer from December this year.
This will be the first time the City of Cape Town’s safety and security directorate will have such a large footprint on the ground. It comes as it tries to compensate for attrition in the police service which has seen the city lose 4,500 police officers over the past few years.
But according to mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith, the deployment of these officers is only the “first layer” – there are plans to deploy the second tranche of officers in the near future with the eventual aim of having teams as large as five members in each neighbourhood.
The officers are part of the city’s neighbourhood policing strategy which has been in an embryonic state since it was first proposed in 2008.
“We're avoiding the old hackneyed bobby-on-the-beat trope. Effectively we are trying to ensure that every part of the city gets a taste of the budget, that every ward in the city now has one officer patrolling. If we had the budget we’d make it five or 10,” said Smith.
He was confident that once the first officers were rolled out there would be calls from communities to have more deployed.
Thanks to mayor Dan Plato’s new R535m capital budget for the 2019/20 financial year for the safety and security directorate, which is expected to be adopted by the city council on Wednesday, the armed officers will be equipped with new patrol vehicles.
They will operate out of existing city-owned facilities spread across the metro. Smith said these “neighbourhood safety officers” will be trained in community-based policing, which include:
Linking with neighbourhood watches and private security companies;
Building partnerships with the community;
Linking with school resource officers;
Working with the metro police and SAPS;
Identifying the different hot spots and developing strategies on how to deal with them.
“[This is] rather than just saying this guy is going to climb into a vehicle somewhere and just drive back and forth through the ward hoping to catch something,” said Smith.
Previously, the city had ward-based law enforcement officers in 17 wards. They will now become mentors for the new recruits who will start training soon.
These “neighbourhood safety officers” will augment the 100 extra officers the city has already started deploying for the Neighbourhood Safety Team in areas rife with gang violence such as Bonteheuwel, Valhalla Park and Bishop Lavis.
“The test of whether the officer is working is that his supervisor must walk down the street with him and that officer must be able to greet everybody and they must be able to greet him,” said Smith.
“That’s the key test of the Neighbourhood Safety Initiative model, i.e. bobby on the beat, has he walked the area and built relationships with people to the extent that they are willing to give him information or intel,” he said.
He said these tip-offs get fed into the city’s EPIC dispatching system – an integrated case-managing system that helps all of the city’s other law enforcement arms to respond to events as they are logged.
This is done through devices carried by officers.
“This is the model that the Netherlands uses. Other cities have a similar model, such as the City of Tswane with their Ten Plus model, where there is supposed to be 10 officers per ward,” said Smith.
The one-off R535m allocation will also be used to acquire vehicles and equipment, and to improve facilities across the seven departments in the directorate, including: metro police, law enforcement, traffic service, the Fire and Rescue Service, Disaster Risk Management, and the Public Emergency Communication Centre.
This is over and above the annual operating budget totaling R112m which pays for this like staff salaries, general expenses, vehicle maintenance, fuel, uniform, equipment, and the expansion of volunteer services.
Last month, police minister Bheki Cele gave local law enforcement officers expanded powers including the ability to make arrests for by-law infringements and conduct search-and-seizures. This, according to Smith, makes these officers the closest thing yet to an SAPS officer.
Since Plato took over from Patricia de Lille he has adopted a policy framework which has put a large amount of resources into safety and security, with him coming out of the position of community safety MEC in the Western Cape.
“The city’s law enforcement officers can never replace the SAPS but it is clear that SAPS are under-resourced and while we are fighting to ensure that the national government addresses this shortcoming, we cannot allow our communities to wait until that happens. We believe that these dedicated law enforcement officers will be a crucial link between the city and residents,” said Plato...