DURBAN - THE 2 239 operating shortfall of the eThekwini metro police has been unanimously criticised by the city’s executive committee (exco) of councillors, who have called for an urgent beefing up of the force if it is to meet citizens’ crime prevention expectations.
In a recent meeting, exco heard how the metro police helped mitigate what would have been an even more disastrous situation during the recent unrest.
A recent report highlighted a gaping shortage of police personnel against rising crime trends in an 2 293km2 policing jurisdiction of the municipality.
When the city police was upgraded into a metro police service in 2000, the basis for this was that by 2010, the force would consist of 5 000 members, said the report to the city’s Finance, Security and Emergency Services Committee, compiled by metro police head Steve Middleton.
“As of today, Durban metro police has 2 761 staff members, inclusive of Operations, Logistics and Fines processing,” reported Middleton, who said this highlighted a shortfall of 2 239. He said that while there were extra duties the police were compelled to execute, their primary obligation was to enforce by-laws, traffic management laws and crime prevention.
“Crime prevention as a terminology is so broad it is almost impossible to illustrate what crime prevention is, and invariably crime prevention in a positive sense leads to ‘crime combating’, which is an SAPS constitutional mandate, but metro police gets involved.”
Aside from having had to police the recent civil unrest, the metro police were often expected to attend to VIP escorts, public demonstrations, international events, taxi violence and protection of business sites amid disruptions by business forums, among other matters.
“The size of the metro police has been an issue for a number of years, with repeated promises that there would be recruitment, which simply didn’t take place. It is clear that the metro police don’t have enough officers, and that some of the newer recruits are not sufficiently trained to deal with complicated matters,” said DA leader Nicole Graham.
Had it not been for the metro police, said IFP caucus leader Mdu Nkosi, the worst form of devastation could have been seen in the recent unrest.
“Given the fact that the SAPS were clearly nowhere to be found as the unrest got out of control, one must commend the metro police for their swift response, despite the fact that they are dismally overstretched,” said Nkosi.
“Metro police management has repeatedly called for authority to recruit more officers. We support this request because current numbers are clearly not enough to cover the entire municipal region. Ideally, every township should have at least one metro police station, with enough patrol officers. During the unrest, many township businesses could not be protected because there are not enough officers in these areas.”
ANC exco member Thanduxolo Sabelo said: “The feeling of safety for citizens has been compromised by the riots. We need more recruitment in terms of the metro police. As councillors, we have acknowledged, long before this unrest, that our metro police officers are not enough to protect communities. We need to make a decision to beef up the force,” said Sabelo.
In its latest crime stats showing criminal patterns in the country from January to March, the SAPS said murder and attempted murder had increased by 8.4% and 8.7% respectively, compared to the same period last year.
“It is concerning that the Eastern Cape and the KwaZulu-Natal provinces recorded double digit increases, standing at 21.5% and 16.9% respectively (compared to the same period last year),” said Police Minister Bheki Cele.