Oversight visit to Berea SAPS reveals under-resourced service

Zakhele Mbhele MP, DA Shadow Minister of Police addresses the media at the meeting.

CONCERNED about the rising crime rate and inadequate resourcing of the police service in the Berea, DA Shadow Minister of Police, Zakhele Mbhele MP and ward councillors Martin Meyer and Chris Pappas, conducted an oversight visit to the Berea Police Station on Monday.

Following the meeting, Mbhele said he would ask the SAPS Transformation task team in Parliament’s Police Portfolio Committee this week to explain how it proposes to address the under-equipping, under-training, under-staffing and under-resourcing at station level that hamstrings the SAPS’ ability to fight crime and ensure safe streets and safe homes.

He said the DA would also write to the Acting National Police Commissioner, Lt Gen Lesetja Mothiba, to determine what his plans are to combat this under-resourcing.

Speaking to the media following the meeting, Mbhele said he was advocating on behalf of the officers at the station, who he felt were being let down by senior management who were not in touch with the daily realities at the station.

“The station is also under-equipped with old vehicles and lacks the right vehicles to ensure rapid response to reported crimes in progress. Criminal gangs often outrun the police during high-speed chases because they make a getaway in a high-performance luxury vehicle while the police are outmatched. These issues need to be addressed by national management,” he said.

Mbhele said there were changing dynamics in the Berea area with which the station hadn’t kept up. He said the station was under-staffed with only 135 police officers assigned to the station and 12 vacancies within that post, which was inadequate for such a densely populated area.

“The building is old and small and efforts to get a new location for the station have been hindered by Public Works. Requirements have been sent to Public Works, however there is such a backlog because of past inefficiency, that they are not delivering on their mandate to maintain and upgrade facilities. I will take this up with Fikile Mbalula as he needs to create a mechanism and drive the process to improve support for the police. He cannot go on burying his head in the sand and dragging his feet over these issues. He is betraying the very people who are forced to live in fear in our country,” he said.

Berea CPF chairperson, Paul Antao, reiterated Mbhele’s sentiments, saying there were now more citizens in the area than the police could handle.

“We as the CPF are working well with the station. Colonel Radebe is very open to our suggestions in terms of action, such as holding roadblocks. There is definitely a resource problem, with a lack of vehicles and members. The community is very supportive of the police in the area, although many do not report crimes because of the difficulty in accessing the station. They want to get more involved, but the station needs to be better located and the detectives need to be housed in the same building as it can take up to a day for a docket to get to the detective branch,” he said.

Ward 31 councillor, Chris Pappas said crime states at the beginning of 2016 were very high but during the past year, the police had slowly turned the tide on that through greater community involvement and by working with ward councillors. “The police are listening to the community about what is happening on the ground. This is very important, as the nature of the crime in the area tends to be more organised as they have identified a gap in the area they can take advantage of. The criminals are highly resourced and there is a lot of intelligence in the work they do. The community needs to be involved in the fight against crime,” he said.

Lauren Walford

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