Table View’s neighbourhood watch says it’s ready to “down tools” until the police station jacks up its service to the community. Table View Neighbourhood Watch (TVNW) chairman Grant Lemos says the watch is no longer willing to pick up the slack for Table View SAPS, which he says is grossly under-resourced and understaffed.
If the station had the resources allocated to it on paper, “we would be well off compared to where we are now”, he said.
Instead of working with the watch, he says SAPS management is using it has a substitute – its members spending thousands of rand from their own pockets each month on fuel, vehicle maintenance, bibs and torches to do the job taxpayers are paying the police to do.
Mr Lemos said this has been a problem for years but it had become progressively worse in recent months.
Last week Table View Community Police Forum chairman David Harris wrote to provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula about the “critical shortage of personnel and vehicles” at the station.
In the letter, Mr Harris said Table View police station only had 134 out of its 187 staff complement – a ratio of one officer for every 970 residents.
He told Tabletalk that the national average was one police officer for every 358 citizens.
He said he didn’t expect Table View to take precedence over high-crime neighbourhoods, such as Manenberg, but he wanted just enough officers in the community to provide a functioning a police service.
He said 27 police officers who were supposed to be posted at the station had in fact been deployed to “other stations”.
“It is clear that the return of the 27 seconded members would have a huge impact on our SAPS ability to perform their duty to the required level,” said Mr Harris.
Mr Lemos said the deployments had been made by the Milnerton cluster commander Major General Aneeqah Jordaan but did not reflect on the system, creating the false impression that the station was fully staffed.
Tabletalksent questions to General Jordaan about these issues on Friday last week. We phoned her on Monday to confirm she got them.
“Yes I got your queries on Friday,” she said.
When could we expect a reply?
“I am not going to respond. Okay?” she said.
General Jula did not respond to queries sent by Tabletalk.
Table View station commander Lindiwe Dyanti also did not respond to questions about the station’s dependence on the TVNW.
Mr Lemos said the lack of resources had become so bad at Table View it had forced the Parklands satellite station to close – there were simply not enough police officers to run it.
Table View police were also short of visible policing vehicles and only had two on the road.
“We’ve been in situations where watch members have been told there were no SAPS vehicles available leaving community members to stand on their own,” he said.
He said two warrant officers were performing the duties of captains but not getting the money for it.
He stressed that TVNW was not against the Table View SAPS and that it supported them fully but it wanted to be met halfway.
“We just want our police officers to be able to do their jobs, and they can’t do it because they are under resourced and understaffed.
“My members are the ones suffering out there. It’s time away from their families standing and waiting hours for SAPS vehicles to arrive at a scene because they are under resourced.
“It’s come to the stage where the Table View Neighbourhood Watch are prepared to down tools.
“We are prepared to say that if the police commissioner’s office does not intervene with immediate effect, we will be turning off our call phones, our repeaters, radios. We will not respond to anything,” he said.
He said it was not an easy decision to make but a necessary one to force SAPS to give the community the adequately resourced police station it deserved and was paying for through taxes.
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said a provincial parliament standing committee’s report on under-resourcing in the province last year highlighted the extent of the problem with up to 85% of police stations being under resourced in the past.
Former police commissioner, Arno Lamoer, had admitted that the province was understaffed by 3 000 police officers.
“Complaints about under resourcing of police stations and manpower constraints is unfortunately not unique to Table View and even more unfortunately, not new in the Western Cape.
“I receive complaints almost every day from communities that policing service delivery is being hamstrung by stations being short-staffed and under-resourced.
“Resource constraints directly impact the police’s ability to respond and, in worst case scenarios, this could be the difference between life and death as for those caught between gang fighting and gunfire,” said Mr Plato.
He urged all community safety structures, such as the neighbourhood watches and CPFs, to continue to work with the police.
According to the department, a neighbourhood watch structure is a voluntary entity and therefore may “down tools” if they chose to. There are no legal consequences.
Community Safety spokesman Ewald Botha noted the MEC could consider withdrawing a watch’s accreditation if it failed to comply with standards – including those for patrolling – set by the Western Cape Community Safety Act.
However the act did not say exactly how frequently patrols should be done.