More policing power announced to fight crime – GHL

Mayor says Cape Town will get more powers to run its own fully fledged policing service

More policing power announced to fight crime – Geordin Hill-Lewis

18 August 2022

Speaker, a democratic state does not need to be a weak state. On the contrary, in a democracy, citizens elect a government with the expectation that it will protect them from harm.

In this City, we have taken the decision that we will not be held hostage by the failings national Police Minister. If Mr Cele will not fulfil his democratic mandate to make the people of Cape Town safer, then we certainly will.

We need to do more – right now – to protect people from the gangs and violent criminals that steal, rape and murder with absolute impunity.

And so today I want to announce what we are doing to increase policing power in Cape Town. When I was elected Mayor I pledged to make Cape Town safer by training and deploying hundreds of additional law enforcement officers, expanding neighbourhood watches, fully harnessing technology to fight crime, and fighting to expand municipal policing powers.

Speaker, I am pleased to say that we are making significant progress on every one of these promises. To date, we have deployed 1 100 new officers in communities impacted by high crime rates, including Delft, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Philippi, Hanover Park, Bishop Lavis, Mfuleni, Harare, Gugulethu, Kraaifontein, Mitchells Plain, Atlantis, Philippi East and Samora Machel.

Our local Law Enforcement has more than tripled its arrest rate in recent years due to increased City and Provincial Government investment, with 50% of these arrests being drug-related. Of the 12 murder hotspots where LEAP officers have been deployed, four of them – Gugulethu, Philippi East, Mitchells Plain and Elsies River – no longer feature among the top 30 murder hotspots in the country.

As a result of these interventions, violent crime in Cape Town is now decreasing in some of the most crime-affected areas of our city. And we intend to keep up the momentum by training and deploying more officers to the areas that need it most. The City has allocated a record R5,4 bn safety budget this year, with funding for 230 more officers and auxiliaries this year alone.

We will soon release details of the deployment of 100 Law Enforcement officers to the Cape Town CBD. Every day thousands of residents from communities across Cape Town come to the CBD to work, and this deployment will give the City a 24-hour policing presence in the Cape Town CBD.

We are not going to allow our city centre to degenerate into a cesspit of criminality as has happened in other cities around the country. Because, the simple truth is that, if you surrender the CBD to criminal elements, you kill investment, growth and jobs. In the coming months, we will launch an 80-officer strong Facility Protection unit to protect key municipal buildings from vandalism, and our staff from violent attacks. This new team are currently undergoing their training, and we wish them well and look forward to the difference they will make.

And, on the subject of training: over the next 3 years R66m has been budgeted for expanding the City’s law enforcement training college to produce even more well-trained officers. This includes the recruitment of 25 additional training staff to deliver on the expanded training needs of the City’s policing departments.

Speaker, the neighbourhood watches throughout our City are one of its biggest success stories. It has been shown that communities are safer when residents work together to fight crime, which is why we have budgeted R5,6 million for training and new equipment for neighbourhood watches across Cape Town. My programme of patrolling with neighbourhood watches continues and I look forward to joining the Belhar community next week.

Not only are neighbourhood watches highly effective in fighting crime, they are also a proving ground for volunteers who want to take their participation to the next level. Over the next five years, we will expand the Auxiliary Law Enforcement Service – with members mostly recruited from neighbourhood watches. The City aims to recruit, train and deploy an additional 600 volunteers over the next five years to bolster its current volunteer corps of 470.

Now I am a firm believer that, when it comes to policing, there is no substitute for good old-fashioned boots on the ground. But I am more convinced than ever that technology can tip the scale in our favour as we work to win the war on crime. Technology gives us the means to develop and execute a truly integrated approach to make the most efficient use of the City’s limited resources.

Plans are underway to convert the City’s current Transport Management Centre in Goodwood into a fully-integrated Joint Services Operations Centre or JSOC.  To use a biological analogy, the JSOC will become the ‘head’ of our policing operation – it is where our entire crime-fighting apparatus will be run from.

If the JSOC is to be the head, then the Emergency Police Incident Control or ‘EPIC’ software system will be the ‘brain’. EPIC will process data in real time to give our operational command team enhanced real-time situational awareness, and enable us to respond decisively and immediately to incidents as they occur. The ‘eyes’ of the operation will be the various camera-based technologies including CCTV footage, remotely piloted and manned aircraft systems, automatic number-plate recognition technology, vehicle dash cams and body-worn cameras.

The ‘eyes’ will be augmented by the ‘ears’ – a network of audio sensors that detect when a shot is fired, precisely where it is fired and even the type of firearm used. Gunshot location data will help our police officers to deploy resources to gun crime hotspots, react quickly to gun crime when it occurs, and to help with prosecuting those who commit gun crime.

Speaker, on the subject of prosecution, it is common cause that the SAPS has a woeful conviction rate. Lost dockets, lack of evidence and corrupt officials are staple features of SAPS investigations, which is why so many criminals still roam our streets, terrorising communities. These failures give the many hard-working SAPS officers a bad name, and erode public trust in the police.

In the City of Cape Town, we are building our municipal police into a proper crime-fighting force, to make our communities safer.

But the truth is, Speaker, we need to do much more if we are to win the war on crime. And we want to do much more. It is not good enough for us to increase our policing power; we need to expand the powers of our city officers as well.

I think everyone here knows that devolution is an overarching policy position of this government. We are a capable government, and we are capable of achieving much more if the national government devolves more power to us. Our Metro Police and Law Enforcement Officers do an incredible job, but they do not yet have all the powers envisaged in the Constitution to win the war against crime.

Specifically, our officers are limited to crime prevention in the main, with limited scope for criminal investigations. While we already use that existing scope to the full, and we are fully confident in our power to do so, we also want to do so much more.

By going beyond crime prevention, we could be doing so much more to help SAPS build prosecution-ready case dockets. Instead, our officers have to rely on an overwhelmed and under-resourced SAPS that, frankly, does not have the capacity to investigate crime properly.

A recent study found that 48% of SAPS detectives in the Western Cape have a caseload of over 200 dockets per officer. This is 333% above the norm. This problem is compounded by the current shortage of more than 500 SAPS detectives in the province.

Fortunately, there is a practical, realistic, and workable solution. I can announce today that I have sent a formal request to Minister Cele to give the City’s police officers full crime-fighting powers, including the ability to investigate crime.

Minister Cele has previously said that he cannot devolve power in the absence of a constitutional amendment.

This is nonsense. Section 99 of the Constitution provides that “a Cabinet member may assign any power or function…to a Municipal Council.”

Accordingly, I have written to the Minister to request that he uses his constitutionally-enshrined power to give us the policing powers we need.

I was pleased to see President Ramaphosa’s remarks on Tuesday this week pledging to re-organise and strengthen law enforcement capacity across the board. With greater police powers granted by Minister Cele, we can help President Ramaphosa achieve his goal.

Speaker, let me be absolutely clear about what we want: We want our own, fully-fledged City police force with all the powers it needs to drastically reduce crime in Cape Town. And, if the Minister is not prepared to give us the powers we seek, we will fight tooth and nail to get them. We owe it to the millions of people in this City who live in fear of crime.

We can be a positive, powerful force for change when we take action together.

Thank you, Speaker.

Issued by Media Office, City of Cape Town, 18 August 2022