Some startling facts about the state of policing in the Overstrand have come to light in the Western Cape Police Ombudsman’s report on the inability of the South African Police Services to perform their mandate.

Ombudsman Johan Brand said in his report, which served before the provincial Standing Committee for Community Safety last week, that SAPS was unable to perform its mandate due to an insufficient allocation of resources, resulting in inefficiency of the delivery of services by SAPS in the area.  

Some of the findings include:

While the United Nations recommend a ratio of 220 residents for every police officer, the average rate in South Africa is 383:1. In the Overstrand, however the ratio is:

  1. Gansbaai: 258:1
  2. Kleinmond: 522:1
  3. Hermanus: 638:1
  4. Stanford: 851:1

Although Gansbaai and Kleinmond stations are both on a level where the station commander is a Lieutenant-Colonel, Kleinmond has 28 fewer officers than Gansbaai. 

Gansbaai has 59 officers against a granted capacity of 73 (81%), Kleinmond 40 officers against a granted 45 (89%), Hermanus 142 officers against a granted 162 (88%) and Stanford 9 officers against a granted 13 (69%).

In addition, both the Family, Child and Sexual Offences and the Public Order Policing (POP) units are understaffed and operating at less than 80% of their granted capacity. 

The K9 unit has all of its 18 staff members, but November marks seven years since the building and facilities of the dog unit in Hawston were destroyed in protest action and they have since not been rebuilt.

With regard to vehicles, Gansbaai has 16 against a granted allocation of 20, Hermanus has 39 against a granted 42, Kleinmond has 12 against a granted 15 and Stanford only 7 against a granted 12.

According to the report, although the actual number of vehicles at the specialised units seems sufficient to serve the stations in the Overstrand area, POP has old Nyalas that are more often in the garage than outside. The unit also has only one water cannon to serve the entire province.

The report states that the Zwelihle satellite station that was burnt down during the unrest in 2017 has made policing in the area of Hermanus more difficult. “The local community complained about having to travel far distances to report crime and endure long queues, resulting in possible under-reporting of crime.”

The communities also expressed their need for additional satellite police stations to be established in Pearly Beach/Eluxolweni, Hawston/Onrus/Sandbaai and Betty`s Bay/Hangklip/Pringle Bay.

The Ombudsman also received complaints during the public hearings that were held about the fact that the Local Criminal Record Centre (LCRC) is stationed in Somerset West, which impacts negatively on the response times for crime scene investigations. 

Brand notes in his report that although crime statistics indicate a stabilisation in crime over the last three financial years, the data is not reliable as communities have indicated that they no longer report, crime due to the poor responsiveness of SAPS, and because they don’t trust SAPS.

Concerns raised by the communities include: 

  • Poor response to complaints;
  • Poor response to crime scenes;
  • Poor response by LCRC for fingerprint investigations; 
  • Lack of law enforcement by SAPS; 
  • Reluctance of SAPS to appoint community members as reservists;
  • Road closures of the R43, R44 and N2;
  • Lack of visibility and no crime prevention duties in Hawston;
  • Hermanus SAPS are fearful of Hawston unless they are accompanied by Public Order Policing;
  • Zwelihle community claimed police brutality during peaceful protests; 
  • Failure by SAPS to act against perpetrators committing illegal acts in their presence in full view of senior SAPS members;
  • Failure by SAPS to arrest known inciters of public violence whose incitement resulted in some R40 million damage to public property and led to an estimated R400 million loss to the Overstrand;
  • Failure by the SAPS to react to complaints from, and reports by the public who have witnessed illegal acts of public violence, damage to public and private property, illegal blocking of public roads, stoning of vehicles, extortion, thuggery and intimidation being brazenly and maliciously perpetrated in numerous instances.

In terms of the efficiency of SAPS in the various towns, the report found:

  • Arrests were not made in 72% of the cases reported to SAPS in Gansbaai during 2016/2017, deteriorating to 74% during 2017/2018 and slightly improving to 72% in 2018/2019.
  • In more than 65% of the crimes reported to SAPS in Gansbaai, the crimes were not detected by the SAPS. The number of cases withdrawn in Gansbaai increased by 48 cases (62,3%).
  • In Hermanus, arrests were not made in 73% of the cases reported during 2016/2017, deteriorating to 76% during 2017/2018 and further deteriorating to 78% in 2018/2019.  In more than 60% of the crimes reported, the crimes were not detected, and the number of cases withdrawn in Hermanus increased with 161 cases (29,6%).  The Hermanus station contributes to half of the 323 cases withdrawn in the Overberg cluster.   
  • In Kleinmond, arrests were not made in 81% of the cases reported during 2016/2017, deteriorating to 83% during 2017/2018 and further deteriorating to 84% in 2018/2019.In more than 70% of the crimes reported, the crimes were not detected by the SAPS.  The increase in the detection rate can mainly be contributed to the increase in the number of cases withdrawn before the court. The number of cases withdrawn in Kleinmond increased by 73 cases (61,3%).
  • In Stanford arrests were not made in 50% of the cases reported during 2016/2017, deteriorating to 64% during 2017/2018 and improving to 58% in 2018/2019.  In more than 50% of the crimes reported, the crimes were not detected by the SAPS. The increase in the detection rate can mainly be contributed to the increase in the number of cases withdrawn before court. The number of cases withdrawn increased by 11 cases (100%).

The Ombudsman notes that the cases sent to court and the detection rates at all the stations would be much lower if the arrests for crimes dependent on police action (drug and firearm arrests and driving under the influence of liquor) were not included. “The crimes that are really affecting the communities thus remain unsolved.”

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