Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, JP Smith says that crime does not necessarily increase over the festive season in the Mother City, but rather, it is the nature of crime that changes.
“I don’t think it’s a fair thing to say that crime increases in the festive season. Crime just changes. Certain types of crime become more prominent while others reduce. It is problematic with more young people being idle, not being occupied by activity at school, which makes for fertile grounds for bad people to recruit and to encourage those young people to get up to mischief,” he says.
Cape Town becomes congested with locals and tourists during the festive season. According to Smith, alcohol consumption in the city increases and becomes a trigger for fatalities.
“What we do have is a lot more people who descend on Cape Town from various parts of the country and all over the world, so the roads become busier; that means more motorcar accidents, more alcohol consumption leading to people doing more stupid stuff, which ultimately results in more injuries, hospitalisation and fatalities,” he says.
Smith says that there’s an increase in beachgoers during this period, making people more vulnerable to injuries at the beach.
He says that the key is to remember that the result of injuries and deaths this festive season will not be the guy in the ski mask, which is what’s worrying.
“It’s not always the stranger danger, but it will actually be the result of things that people do to themselves. That’s why it is worthwhile to remember that you have a major responsibility for your own safety this time of the year. A good use of common sense can keep you safe. Most people will be victims of self-perpetuated injuries,” he says.
He adds that during the festive season the safety and security department acquires a huge amount of extra budget. Therefore, the department attempts to drag the budget from the beginning of December to Easter, which is when the visitor numbers and level of events start taking off in the city.
“We have extra overtime budget so we start putting in longer hours. We don’t suddenly have more staff, but we have a lot more hours being put in and that means we can float those numbers quite aggressively,” he says.
“Last year we were able to increase our presence on the coastal areas to deal with the huge influx of people, whilst at the same time, keeping a handle on the crime hot spots in the city. We didn’t have to forsake the one for the other, which was encouraging. The stabilisation unit and the extra staff from other budgets helped a lot too,” he added.
However, it seems the department is not that fortunate this year. Smith says that this time around, resources aren’t as readily available.
“This year we don’t have the all those resources, so we’ll have to work a bit more cleverly. Already, our special operations are starting and our multi-purpose roadblocks are intensifying; it deals with searching vehicles for firearms, people with outstanding warrants for various offenses and a whole range of other law violations,” he says.
“We’ve also been developing and improving our resources… We’ve launched a new technology called ‘epic’ that connects our staff to the despatching centre and connects the despatching centre in turn, to the call centre. So we are trying to improve our response rate,” he added.
Smith says that the prime spots for crime is in the vicinity of the R300.
“Borchards Quarray, the Jakes Gerwel R300 section, as well as between Langa and Bonteheuwel are hotspots for crime in Cape Town. Therefore, we’ve added extra resources in those areas,” he says.[VOC Ra-ees Moerat]