Cape Town launches new rural safety enforcement unit

By African News Agency Time of article published Jul 12, 2020

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Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has established a law enforcement unit to assist existing policing and community safety efforts in Cape Town’s rural pockets, the city said on Sunday.

The 21-member unit had been operational since July 1 and followed on the deployment of 500 extra officers into the highest crime areas in Cape Town in February as part of a joint project between the city and the Western Cape provincial government, with the recruitment of an additional 500 officers to follow, mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said in a statement.

The rural safety enforcement unit would support crime fighting efforts within rural and semi-rural areas such as Morningstar, Philadelphia, and the Philippi horticultural area, and build effective partnerships between all the different role players within these areas.

"Crimes like attempted murder, assault, theft, vandalism, malicious damage to property, illegal dumping, cable theft, as well as contact crimes, are among the challenges in our rural areas within the city, and we are hoping to help increase the visibility of enforcement services in these areas that tend to be further removed from police stations. The population in our rural pockets has also grown, both formally and informally, and so there is a need to extend services to these residents," he said.

"These rural nodes are responsible for much of the affordable food being consumed in the city and the Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised the vulnerability of poorer communities and the challenges they can have accessing food. Food security is critical for the city’s well-being, especially the most vulnerable citizens."

The city's rural areas also created jobs for thousands of Capetonians, with the Philippi horticultural area sustaining more than 2000 employment opportunities for people living there. Crime threatened food security and jobs, but also drove up food pricesas security costs incurred by those producing the food increased the cost, Smith said.

Photo: Supplied

Crime also affected these communities very badly as they struggled to access policing resources.  In Philippi, for example, the police station was on the edge of the horticultural area, but given that it also served other areas such as Hanover Park, it was a challenge to split the available policing resources in a manner that met the needs of all residents.

The rural safety enforcement unit would work in conjunction with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and community structures such as neighbourhood watches and community policing forums where these exist to help improve safety in these areas, Smith said.

Key focus areas would include a visible policing presence, establishing and improving systems to address crime within the areas of responsibility, educating the community on safety and security matters, supporting rural development, rural growth, and the upliftment of the rural community, and gathering intelligence for relaying to investigative authorities.

Officers would adopt a range of patrol methods, including vehicle, foot patrols, and motorcycle patrols. They would also host intermittent vehicle checkpoints in their areas of deployment.

"Cape Town, like many other cities around the world, has a number of competing crime priorities. The city has, over the past decade, tried its utmost to contribute to the efforts to meet the growing need in many of our communities. Dedicated units come with the benefit of having staff who are well familiar with their area of responsibility and the various role players, which means relationships and trust can be built, and challenges tackled collectively.

"There is a common perception that crime is a policing responsibility and that is true, in part. Without active communities who take a vested interest in their own safety and in working with the enforcement agencies, we cannot make the gains that are possible through collective effort. The city looks forward to building positive relationships with communities through the establishment of this unit, and ultimately seeing a reduction in crime in their areas," Smith said.

African News Agency (ANA)

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