Western Cape Safety Recovery Plan: Department of Community Safety briefing

Community Safety, Cultural Affairs and Sport (WCPP)

24 August 2021
Chairperson: Mr R Allen (DA)
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Meeting Summary

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The Department of Community Safety told the Committee that it had made inroads towards achieving the deliverables of the Western Cape Safety Plan. Briefing the Committee in a virtual meeting, it reported its focus had shifted more to service delivery than an oversight role. In implementing the Plan, the Department had decided to concentrate on short-term safety threats. The data surveillance system had been developed in line with international best practice, to understand trends at a strategic level and to respond better on the ground.

The Department was working on amending the Liquor Act to reduce alcohol harms, and to protect the economy. The proposals were informed by local and international evidence. 651 Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) Officers had been deployed in nine areas, plus reaction units in ten areas. The time and place of deployment was informed by data.  Area-based teams were being established in 16 priority areas, and the current focus was on building relationships.

In responding to long-term safety threats, the Department had taken it upon itself to support vulnerable families. Its programmes and interventions were aimed at preserving, strengthening and supporting children vulnerable to violence. The after-school programmes, such as Safety Ambassadors, Chrysalis Academy, and providing support to children in conflict with the law, were focused on youth at risk. The provincial implementation plan to deal with gender-based violence (GBV) had been circulated for input, and was in line with the National Strategic Plan on GBV and femicide.

Referring to the current crime situation in the Western Cape, the Department reported that murder had remained on an upward trend. During the last end-of-year holiday season, 61% of people were killed by firearms, 24% were killed by stabbing, and 14% were killed by others means. Job losses, mental health, increased school drop-outs, increased instability and continued unemployment in the Western Cape were critical stressors and risk factors for violence.

The Department had established a Youth Safety Ambassador Programme in its efforts to create work opportunities. It aimed to identify, recruit and train 1 000 young people as violence prevention facilitators, and have an exit strategy that would equip them for further opportunities in the labour market. The Youth Safety Ambassadors would work closely with area-based teams to implement area-specific violence prevention initiatives. This programme was aligned with the Provincial Recovery Plan to create jobs, restore well-being and dignity, and promote safety.

The Department would further integrate and optimise technology in the province, facilitate co-ordination of law enforcement structures, and build strong social and urban design partnerships. It would establish a safety and security academy for the training of specialist safety and security capacity and the professionalisation of other relevant role players -- for example, neighbourhood watch structures. Training modules would include mediation, conflict management and other content towards reducing violence in communities.

Members wanted details of what the Safety Plan would look like in rural areas, because its focus seemed to be on the metro, and asked how many firearms had been stolen and recovered, seeing that 42% of murders came from illegal firearms. They also wanted to know how far the Recovery Plan was informed by the district safety plans in the municipalities; how seriously safety proposal plans from communities were taken, because Mitchells Plain had an Alert 21 mobile app which was not receiving the necessary support; how the Department was interacting with private companies’ initiatives to enhance the youth programme; whether there had been significant progress in reducing GBV through the Alcohol Harms Reduction Programme while there were municipalities continuing to issue liquor licences; and if there was coordination between LEAP and the South African Police Service (SAPS) when it came to role-playing once deployment had taken place.

Meeting report

Department of Community Safety: Western Cape Safety Plan

Adv Yashina Pillay, Head of Department (HOD): Western Cape Department of Community Safety, informed the Committee her Department had made inroads towards achieving deliverables in the Western Cape Safety Plan. The Department had seen movement from the oversight role to more involvement in service delivery. She focused her presentation on progress in the implementation of the plan, the Youth Safety Ambassador Programme, peace officers, K9 Units, and the future focus.

In implementing the Safety Plan, the Department had decided to focus on short term safety threats. The data surveillance system had been developed in line with international best practice to understand trends at a strategic level, and to respond better on the ground. The Department was working on amending the Liquor Act to reduce alcohol harm and to protect the economy. The proposals were informed by local and international evidence. 651 Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officers had been deployed in nine areas, plus reaction units in ten areas. The time and place of deployment was informed by data.  Area-based teams were being established in 16 priority areas, and the current focus was on building relationships.

More LEAP officers had been deployed to precincts with higher murders. The second set of deployments was prioritised for Kraaifontein, Mfuleni, Harare and Gugulethu, based on the latest health data. The reaction unit had been established to deal with flare ups in murders. This had improved coordination between law enforcement agencies. LEAP deployment was being influenced by the health analysis data which assists with the identification of priority areas, hotspots and circumstances of murders, and with identification of day of the week and time of the day. This deployment strategy had led to 32% of the firearm recovery rate.

When it came to progress on the area-based approach to safety, the Department was establishing area-based teams in the 16 priority areas. The focus was on building relationships between the different stakeholders. As a result, 11 area-based teams (ABTs) were using the area-based profiles and were being capacitated by the Department.

In response to long-term safety threats, the Department had taken it upon itself to support vulnerable families. Its programmes and interventions were aimed at preserving, strengthening and supporting children vulnerable to violence. The Department had also decided to support vulnerable youth. The after-school programmes were focused on youth at risk, such as Safety Ambassadors and the Chrysalis Academy, and providing support to children in conflict with the law. The transversal youth task team had been set up under the auspices of the well-being priority, to identify a continuum of youth risk factors to inform youth at risk programmes. Its scope of work had to address psycho-social well-being and violence prevention challenges. The provincial implementation plan on gender-based violence (GBV) had been circulated for input, and was in line with the national strategic plan on GBV and femicide. It also had a victim empowerment programme and made provision for shelter.

Adv Pillay addressed the current crime situation in the Western Cape, and reported that murder had remained on an upward trend. Every year, murder was highest in Quarter 3 (December holidays), and dropped during Quarter 4 (January to March). The most significant dip had been recorded during Quarter 1 of the 2020/21 hard lockdown. Over the past four years, murder had been the highest during Quarter 3 of 2020/21 – the last December holidays. 61% of people were killed by firearms, while 24% were killed by stabbing, and 14% were killed by others means. Job losses, mental health, increased school drop-outs, increased instability and continued unemployment in the Western Cape were critical stressors and risk factors for violence.

In its efforts to create work opportunities, the Department had established the Youth Safety Ambassador Programme. It aimed to identify, recruit and train 1 000 young people as violence prevention facilitators, and have a facilitating an exit strategy that would equip the youth for further opportunities in the labour market. Training was being provided in life skills and workplace skills development, in partnership with the Chrysalis Youth Academy and other stakeholders involved in violence prevention. The Youth Safety Ambassadors would work closely with the ABTs to implement area-specific violence prevention initiatives. This initiative was aligned with the provincial recovery plan to create jobs, restore well-being and dignity, and to promote safety. 196 institutions were participants in this programme, and the number of placements totaled 1 018.

The Department was focusing on Peace Officers between 18 and 35 years with a matric or Grade 12 pass. Preference would be given to candidates with a valid unendorsed driver’s licencse and a clear criminal record. Applicants must motivate their reasons why they need to be part of such a process, and municipalities may interview the candidates as required. The recommendations for the final shortlist was done by the municipal law enforcement directorate. 122 Peace Officers had been trained up to now, and had been placed in six municipalities.

Adv Pillay said the K9 Units had been established to assist law enforcement operations in combating the trade and transportation of illicit narcotics, explosives and poaching of marine resources to promote safer communities. Crime prevention coverage had been increased through the deployment of K9 resources after hours. Maintaining a high degree of visible policing by means of K9 patrols, deployment to identified areas included weighbridges, key points and identified crime hotspots. This was ensuring compliance with the relevant legislation, including the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), the Criminal Procedure Act, the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act and the Firearm Control Act. K9 units had been established in the municipalities of the Swartland, Overberg and the City of Cape Town.

Adv Pillay concluded that the Department would focus on alcohol harm, vulnerable families and youth, GBV, and safe spaces. It would further integrate and optimise technology in the province, facilitate co-ordination of law enforcement structures, and build strong social and urban design partnerships. Finally, it would establish a safety and security academy for the training of specialist safety and security capacity and the professionalisation of other relevant role players, for example neighbourhood watch (NHW) structures. Training modules would include mediation, conflict management, and other content towards reducing violence in communities.

(See accompanying graphs and tables to illustrate average LEAP deployments over weekends vs during the week, the use of data surveillance on deployment, the current crime situation in the Western Cape, and risk factors for violence)

Discussion

Ms L Botha (DA) said the Safety Plan seemed to focus on the metro, and wanted to know what it would be like in the rural areas, and what the homicide pattern in the rural areas was like. She also wanted more details on the firearms situation, seeing that 42% of murders came from illegal firearms, and asked how many had been stolen and recovered.

Adv Pillay responded that the objective of the Safety Plan was to halve the murder rate by 50% within ten years in the metro. The Department had introduced area-based teams in 11 areas within the metro, while others would be introduced in 5five municipalities to ensure a reduction in crime throughout the province. There were on-going engagements with district and local municipalities for fighting crime. The safety plans of municipalities would be aligned to the interventions of area-based teams.

Mr Johan Brand, Chief Director, Western Cape Department of Community Safety, agreed that most cases of murder came from illegal firearms. The focus was on LEAP officers and the SAPS to start to coordinate the recovery of firearms. They had already started to recover two to three firearms per week, and that had increased to eight to nine firearms in a week. Unfortunately, the process to link the firearm with cartridges was the responsibility of SAPS, and it was a delaying factor. He said it was difficult to state how many firearms had been stolen or linked to crime, but the majority of the serial numbers had been removed, and that was the sign of a stolen firearm. 95% of stolen firearms had been recovered.

Mr M Kama (ANC) wanted to know how far the recovery plan was informed by the district safety plans in the municipalities. How seriously were the safety proposal plans from the communities taken, because Mitchell’s Plain had an Alert 21 mobile app which was not receiving the necessary support? The app was for early warning to identify locations and crime spots.

Mr Fred Watkins, Chief Director in the Ministry: Western Cape Department of Community Safety, said he was not aware of the Mitchell’s Plain app, and that information would be relayed to the coordinator. He said there were a number of apps in wards that were driven by private companies. The City of Cape Town (CoCT) and the SAPS were establishing a fusion centre which would bring together all the SAPS radio networks and CoCT. The Department had a representation in that technical committee. It was looking at establishing an integrated central command centre to link all the Western Cape government facilities and local law enforcement. The challenge was that all these law enforcement units were on different networks and platforms. To overcome this, the Department had established a private security forum to see how to link all the networks, including those of private companies.

Mr F Christians (ACDP) commended the HOD for reprioritising the work of the Department. There had been more progress when it came to service delivery. He then wanted to find out how the different powers of the different law enforcement units – LEAP officers, metro police, highway patrol and traffic – were managed. He asked how the Department was interacting with private companies’ initiatives to make the Youth Programme big. Also, he wanted to know if there had been significant progress made in the Alcohol Harms Reduction Programme to reduce GBV while there were municipalities continuing to issue liquor licences.

Adv Pillay said the Department had consulted with the SAPS to ensure the law enforcement officers had received additional training at level 1 and 3 for crowd management, to respond appropriately if they were the first respondents on a site. The powers of these law enforcing components were set out in terms of the Act. The Department met with the SAPS and CoCT every second week to discuss strategic issues, and this had proved to be a success in developing an integrated response to potential unrest, taxi violence and looting. On Alcohol Harms Reduction, the Department was currently busy with amendments to the Liquor Act to consider looking at trading hours and minimum pricing, and was looking to see if it was possible to have a standardised approach in the province. The Department had funded the appointment of liquor inspectors in priority areas.

Mr Trevor Wingrove, Deputy Director: Knowledge Management, Western Cape Department of Community Safety, said the Department was committed to support interventions aimed at the youth, especially the Chrysalis Academy, which it had supported for many years. The Department had started looking at new initiatives and had implemented the Youth Safety Ambassador Programme, as well as Youth Peace Officers. Challenges were around funding, even though attempts had been made to make it available. The Department had also engaged municipalities to see how they could continue employing youths even beyond the contracts they had with the Department. It was currently speaking with the Stellenbosch Municipality which had shown interest in employing Peace Officers, and had convinced it to add a top-up to the stipend it pays. The Department not only focused on training, but also provided employment for the youth even when they exited its programme.

Mr M Xego (EFF) asked what the priorities on GBV were, because there were not sufficient details in the presentation about it.

Adv Pillay said when it came to GBV, the Department was looking at interventions to support families, youth and women. It was in the process of developing procurement specifications for monitoring suitably qualified service providers to tender for these different interventions, as this was a multi-pronged process that would be made relevant for a particular area. It was an area-based intervention.

The Chairperson asked if the Department could confirm that once deployment had taken place in one area, there was engagement between LEAP and SAPS when it came to role-playing. He added that he had received an email from a delighted citizen about LEAP deployment in Kraaifontein.

Mr Brand explained that LEAP officers were deployed under the command of the SAPS. These two worked together as a team on a daily basis. It was a joint operation happening at each SAPS station and had proved to work. The SAPS was part of the technical law enforcement work group. Communication was on-going, and the Department was monitoring the situation at all levels. It was productive. On the coordination of LEAP and SAPS, he said that in each police station there were crime analysis teams. The Department had meetings with SAPS daily, where crime and deployment was discussed. The station commander deployed Leap Officers according to the crime pattern analysis (CPA). This happened at various levels. The Department received many requests from station commanders for LEAP services.

Mr Kama asked to what extent the Safety Plan addressed the need to address environmental design and road infrastructure, especially when it came to safety. For example, in Kraaifontein and other areas, it would not be possible for police to launch a chase because the roads were not accessible. This plan required a multi-departmental approach.

Adv Pillay agreed one could not have a safety approach that did not include social issues, urban design and public spaces. That was why the Department had set up three technical work groups:

  • A law enforcement technical work group led by the Department of Community Safety;
  • A social cluster technical work group led by Social Services Department; and
  • An urban design technical work group led by the Transport Department.

Other departments had representatives in the technical groups and supported the initiatives coordinated by departmental heads. All these groups report to the Safety Steering Committee on a weekly basis about strategic issues. The Department was also aligning its initiatives with the work of these groups, the CoCT and municipalities to eliminate unnecessary duplication and in order to utilise resources optimally and meet the deliverables of the Safety Plan.

Mr Kama suggested the three technical work groups should brief the Committee on what they were doing and progress made so far. He asked how far the Department was in meeting the targets for LEAP Officers.

Adv Pillay said that due to the pandemic, the Department could not train as many youths as it had intended. The training college had been closed, and this had resulted in having LEAP Officers on the ground. Currently, 161 LEAP Officers had been deployed. By September, another 96 would also have been deployed, and 253 would be deployed by December 2021. The SAPS stations that needed them the most would be prioritised.

Committee resolutions

The Committee resolved that the Department should furnish it with information on the current status of the Youth Hubs, and to forward information on firearms. It also resolved it would invite the three technical working groups to brief it on the work done in the next quarter, and engage with the Department on the roll out of the Safety Recovery Plan to get first hand information. Details on how this would be executed would be communicated to the Members.

Adoption of Minutes

The minutes of 29 July 2021 were adopted with no amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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