Western Cape Crime Statistics 2017/18 & Railway Policing: SAPS briefing

Community Safety (WCPP)

26 September 2018
Chairperson: Mr M Wiley (DA) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

CCTV cameras at Cape Town’s train stations have not been working since 2015. This emerged during discussion when the South African Police Service (SAPS) Western Cape and the Rapid Rail Police Unit (RRPU) of SAPS briefed the Standing Committee on Community Safety on matters related to railway policing and the crime situation in the Western Cape.

The Rapid Rail Police Unit (RRPU) said it had been talking to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) about this problem for a long time. It indicated its frustration that the challenges were known, and had not been attended to for many years. It also reported there were no cameras on the platforms, and the monitoring stations of the Cape Town and Bellville train stations were not linked by any camera or technology tool to make monitoring better. It was also revealed that the alarms that were supposed to work in synchronisation with the cameras were sometimes not working.

The RRPU said PRASA was not taking them seriously. They said an integrated multi-departmental approach was being followed to ensure a safe and secure rail environment in the Western Cape. The provincial commissioner had established a priority committee which had provided direction for the deployment of SAPS resources, in line with the current situation affecting the rail environment. The RRPU operational management centre coordinates, monitors and directs all deployments through the operational commanders in line with operational orders and administers all the timelines, as well as log sheet movement. Crime Intelligence gathers, evaluates and disseminates relevant information and provides early warnings regarding threats. Cape Town Metrorail/PRASA activates role players within the PRASA rail environment in the event of an emergency.

The challenges were around the lack of access control to and from stations, lack of communication from PRASA with regard to train cancellations and delays, the shortage of train sets that lead to over-crowding on the trains, Metrorail Protection Services (MPS) members operating without uniform, and CCTV cameras not being regarded as a priority. Fire-fighting equipment was not readily available at all stations and some of the rolling stock had no windows, lights and seats. There was also no policing of trains during peak hours.

SAPS Western Cape indicated that robbery, attempted murder and murder remained the major challenges facing SAPS, but the province had recorded a significant reduction in reported crime. In the last 24 months, there had been an overall reduction of 29 741 reported cases. Gang violence and robberies were the highest contributors to murder and attempted murder, especially in areas like Mitchells Plain, Bishop Lavis, Delft, Khayelitsha, Elsiesriver, Manenberg, Nyanga and Mfuleni. Firearms were the weapons of choice for murder. Other contributing factors were the lack of basic infrastructure, poor lighting, high levels of unemployment, substance abuse, and spatial development. It was pointed out that the design and layout of the residential areas was contributing to gangsterism.

SAPS had come up with an operational approach to decrease crime in the province. This would strengthen their crime prevention capability; deploy more operationally ready personnel; step up their intelligence driven operations; recruit and strengthen their informer network; and strengthen their gang investigation capability.

Members asked the RRPU what it had done about the challenges it had highlighted, and what the response had been; whether there were capacitated intelligence personnel to do the monitoring; what was being done to fix the problem of vehicles that were reported to be an impediment for the RRPU to do its work; what happened next when the crime hotspots had been identified; and why there was no memorandum of understanding (MOU) with PRASA.

They also wanted to know how SAPS Western Cape was going to do its work, seeing that there was a shortage of police personnel, because the operational approach to decrease crime in the province was about strengthening, dominating and deploying. They asked if any measures were in place because crime at Delft and Mfuleni was on the rise. They commented that it was worrying to see crime on the rampage, and wondered if this was an issue of policing alone, or if it needed community involvement.

Meeting report

Rail safety: SAPS briefing

Brigadier Bonginkosi Solucutho, Unit Commander: SAPS RRPU, said an integrated multi-departmental approach was followed to ensure a safe and secure rail environment in the Western Cape. The provincial commissioner had established a priority committee which has provided direction for deployment of SAPS resources in line with the current situation affecting the rail environment. He reported that all tactical commanders of the Cape Town, Bellville, Retreat and Philippi corridors, and the Cross Border & Freight Company and Mainline Company were ensuring that deployments were committed to the rail environment and overseeing that the tactical operational concept is executed accordingly. They conduct multi-disciplinary integrated tactical operations directed at preventing and combating contact crime, contact-related crime, crime against women and children, property-related crime, and infrastructure crimes through operationalising the concepts mentioned within the proactive pillar.

The RRPU operational management centre coordinates, monitors and directs all deployments through the operational commanders in line with operational orders, and administers all the timelines as well as log sheet movement. Crime Intelligence gathers, evaluates and disseminates relevant information and provides early warnings regarding threats. The CMOCC (Cape Town Metrorail) Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) activates role players within the PRASA rail environment in the event of an emergency. PRASA deploys Metrorail Protection Services (MPS) staff and contracts security members on identified hotspots and stations to safeguard assets within the rail environment area. The deployment of MPS members on the train sets prevents on-board crime from taking place, and they escort the train drivers while conducting interchanging of locomotives.

Brig Solucutho indicated there was a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the RRPU and Transnet Freight Rail, but there was none between the RRPU and PRASA/Metrorail.

Challenges were around the lack of access control to and from stations, lack of communication from PRASA with regard to train cancellations and delays, the shortage of train sets that was causing over-crowding on the trains, MPS members operating without uniforms, and CCTV cameras not seen as a priority. Fire-fighting equipment was not readily available at all stations and some of the rolling stock had no windows, lights and seats; and there was no policing of trains during peak hours.

(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate RRPU members, the breakdown of operational and support personnel, vehicle strength, operational process flow, reported crime in the rail environment, theft, confiscations, and arrests).

Western Cape crime situation

Brigadier Preston Voskuil, SAPS, Western Cape, gave an overview of the crime statistics in the Western Cape. He said robbery, attempted murder and murder remained the major challenges facing SAPS, but the province had recorded significant reduction in reported crime. In the last 24 months there had been an overall reduction of 29 741 reported cases.

Gang violence and robberies were the highest contributors to murder and attempted murder, especially in areas like Mitchell's Plain, Bishop Lavis, Delft, Khayelitsha, Elsiesriver, Manenberg, Nyanga and Mfuleni. Firearms were the weapons of choice for murder and attempted murder. Other contributing factors were the lack of basic infrastructure, poor lighting, high levels of unemployment, substance abuse and spatial development. The design and layout of the residential areas was contributing to gangsterism.

The top three stations with the highest reported cases of murder were Nyanga, Phillippi East and Delft. The top three stations with the highest reported cases for attempted murder were Mitchell's Plain, Delft and Khayelitsha. Nyanga, Mitchell's Plain and Khayelitsha were the top three stations for reported cases of aggravated robbery. Many of these crimes were committed during weekends, as well as on Mondays.

There had been a decrease in sexual offences, but an increase in sexual assault and attempted sexual offences. 4 821 arrests had been made for sexual assault. Over 1 400 cases of sexual assault against children had been reported. Overcrowding in households, substance abuse, domestic violence and psychological disorders were the biggest contributers to sexual offences. Most of the sexual assaults that had been reported happened to girls between the ages of 11 and 17, while to boys it happened between the ages of six to 10.

Brigadier Voskuil said SAPS had come up with an operational approach to decrease crime in the province. This would strengthen their crime prevention capability; deploy more operationally ready personnel; step up their intelligence-driven operations; recruit and strengthen their informer network; and strengthen their gang investigation capability aimed at driving Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) investigations.

(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate a trend analysis on reported crime: property and contact crime, murder, attempted murder, aggravated robbery, and sexual offences)

Discussion

Railway crime

Mr N Hinana (DA) asked what the RRPU had done about the challenges it had highlighted, and what the response had been. He wanted to know if there were capacitated intelligence personnel who did the monitoring. He remarked that arrests and confiscations were well stated, but the statistics on the conviction rate had not been reported. Did the RRPU complement what was provided by PRASA personnel?

Brigadier Solucuthu responded they had bi-monthly meetings with PRASA, where security matters were discussed. The frustrations were the challenges being known, but had not been attended to for many years. The intelligence capacity was there. They had a forum to engage with crime intelligence. Crime intelligence met them once a week to sensitise them about current matters. The CIMO office was helping with crime intelligence. They meet with PRASA to discuss rail crime every week, and try to talk with affected stakeholders as well. There were private security companies employed by PRASA, but unfortunately SAPS does not have information on crime from these private companies.

Major General Hendrik Burger, SAPS, Western Cape, said that the conviction rate of the province also included the conviction rate of the rail crime.

Mr Hinana remarked that the answers that were given to the Committee were not satisfactory. Despite having closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, the burning of trains was continuing. He said the cameras were prominent, and the Committee wanted answers.

Brigadier Solucuthu said the cameras had not been working since 2015. They had been talking with PRASA about this problem. On the platforms there were no cameras, and there were no camera links between the Cape Town and Bellville stations in terms of monitoring.

Brigadier David Mhlambiso, SAPS Section Commander, added that the alarms that were supposed to work in synchronisation with the cameras, were not working sometimes. PRASA was not taking them seriously.

Mr B Kivedo (DA) wanted to know what was being done to fix the problem of vehicles that were reported to be an impediment for the RRPU to do its work. What happened next when the crime hotspots had been identified?

Brigadier Solucuthu said they did need better vehicles in their space, but PRASA needed to fix the cancellation and delays of the trains first so that it was easy for SAPS to dispatch personnel.

Brigadier Mhlambiso indicated there was an operation taking place every night on the central line hotspots. The main problem was around cable theft, and the value chain had gone beyond level three. Those that were beyond level three needed a concerted effort. There was a committee that was looking at these hotspots in consultation with the police stations in the affected areas.

Ms P Lekker (ANC) wanted to know why there was no MOU with PRASA. She asked if there had been an analysis done on the nature of crimes happening on the railway lines, and what the trends were. Had an analysis been done on the private security companies working on the railway lines? She requested that the Committee be forwarded the details of the MOU between Transnet Freight and the RRPU.

Major General Burger explained that when they investigated the incidents of trains being burnt, it was sometimes discovered that it was not always the work of criminals, but technical problems like electricity which caused the fires. Not all reported cases involved criminal activity. They also experienced time delays when burning occurred, because PRASA took time to act and switch off electricity. That was exacerbating the burning of trains. SAPS could not enter crime scenes unless it was told the electricity was off. He added that the security officials of the private companies were vetted, just like all people involved in security work. The companies that employed security personnel also had to be registered before they carried out their work.

Brigadier Solucuthu said that the MOU with PRASA had been delayed because the people who were supposed to sign it on behalf of PRASA were in acting positions, and there were delays in appointing a permanent chief executive officer (CEO).

Mr D Mitchell (DA) requested that the Committee be forwarded the details of the private security company that PRASA was currently doing business with, because he was interested to know its staff turnover, especially among those doing fieldwork.

The Chairperson said he used to be the chairperson of the Committee seven years ago, and the crime statistics on railways that had been presented indicated the situation was worse than it was before.

Discussion

Western Cape Crime

Mr Mitchell wanted to know how SAPS Western Cape was going to do its work, seeing that there was a shortage of police personnel, because the operational approach to decrease crime in the province was about strengthening, dominating and deploying. How were the hotspots going to be fought this time around, because there was nothing new about them?

Brigadier Voskuil said SAPS was 92% capacitated in the province. He admitted, however, there was a shortage of personnel. The main challenge was on murder, attempted murder and robbery. SAPS needed to optimise their informer network to arrest the suspects and to improve their recruitment process. Base camps were a new methodology that was being employed. Gaps had been identified. Members of SAPS were being monitored by teams to improve productivity. Station commanders were being held accountable for service delivery and meeting targets that had been identified.

Ms T Dijana (ANC) asked if there were measures in place, because crime at Delft and Mfuleni was on the rise. She wanted to know if there were any plans in place to decrease gangsterism, seeing that the carjacking of British American Tobacco vehicles had decreased.

Brigadier Voskuil said they had implemented a coordination team structure to strengthen the levels and clusters. More resources would be allocated, and there were interventions in place to normalise the situation. Cluster commanders had been empowered to stabilise in order to normalise.  SAPS could not fight gangs on its own -- it needed interventions and whistle-blowers from the churches, families and community organisations to ensure good values among youths and communities.

Ms Lekker remarked it was worrying to see crime on the rampage. One wondered if this was the issue of policing alone, or if it needed community involvement. She said that Nyanga was the murder capital, and hearing of a decrease in crime was neither here nor there. She asked if this could be a matter of environmental design, unemployment and unemployable people. She suggested that SAPS should appoint a commission to look at these challenges. She pointed out that Harare had recorded a decrease in crime and murder. What systems had been put in place, and would they be applicable to other areas where murder and crime rates were high?

She commented there was stubborn and persistent crime in communities. This meant more needed to be done to put systems in place. The perception out there was that crime was stubborn and this warranted responsible citizens to address it. What other means were there to address crime against women and children, because one of the challenges in the sexual assaults of minors was that some mothers did not report people who violated their children? One would find that children would be sexually assaulted by their fathers, but because the stepfather was bringing in the money, the mother would not report the matter.

Brigadier Voskuil admitted that police alone could not have a sustainable effort against crime. Fighting crime started with family values. They had started to engage stakeholders like churches and schools to prevent crime. He agreed that environmental factors, unemployment and unemployable people contributed extensively to crime. The whole thing needed a societal approach. For example, the multi-disciplinary approach had worked very well in Ocean View.  On systems implemented in Harare, they had visited the stations to look at the systems in place and to see if plans were in order and meetings were taking place. There was also what they called “accountable stations,” where commanders were accounting for what they were supposed to do. All these systems were now applicable to other stations.

The Chairperson voiced concern about the report, which indicated that these challenges were socio-economic related. He was also concerned about the crime statistics, especially on murder, attempted murder and robbery, and said he hoped the report was a true reflection of what was happening in communities.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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