The City of Cape Town and Golden Arrow Bus Services officially launched a new law enforcement unit in Mitchells Plain on Wednesday morning. The unit forms part of several interventions dedicated to increasing commuter safety in Cape Town. Six arrests have been made since the unit’s trial period began in September, including arrests for underage drinking, possession of an imitation firearm and the arrests of suspects who were found stealing electrical cabling along one of the routes.
20 officers will be deployed to monitor buses in hotspots of criminal activity such as intimidation or the robbery of commuters.
These spots have yet to be determined but will be identified and selected through intelligence gathered by different law enforcement structures.
The City of Cape Town’s safety and security spokesperson, Jean-Pierre Smith said that the 20 deployed officers are among 3 000 new law enforcement additions to the Western Cape. These additions come after the 2018/19 South African crime statistics placed the province among the most dangerous in the country.
The most prevalent statistics relate particularly to rape, murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.
“We did the Metrorail Enforcement Unit and the Western Cape Government then approached us and said, ‘Well could we try something similar with the buses?’ And this is the consequence thereof – 20 officers patrolling the buses, some in uniform and some in plain clothes. Hopefully we will carry on achieving the kind of statistics they have in the first two weeks already.”
Smith was referring to the earlier mentioned six arrests made by the unit.
Golden Arrow Bus Services spokesperson, Bronwen Dyke-Beyer said the officers are part of an intelligence-driven operation that will not only increase the security of commuters but also work to tackle possible syndicates.
“It’s really not just about stop and search, it’s an intelligence-driven operation. So, what’s happening behind the scenes with the daily debriefings, our operational team with law enforcement, that’s where the magic is happening – that’s where all the intelligence is being gathered and that’s how we’re going to catch these people out.”
Smith said that while “undercover cops” will be posing as average commuters, they will have the ability to intervene immediately.
He added that the men and women in uniform will act as a deterrent to every-day criminals.
“Hopefully the ‘plain clothes guys’ will start getting arrests. Golden Arrow is guiding us as to where they want us to patrol.
The staff have full policing powers; they can arrest, they can search, they can seize and they carry a firearm. We are trying to make sure that over time, nobody messes with the Golden Arrow bus because you never know when there’s an officer in plain clothes on it.”
The Western Cape not only received an increase in law enforcement but also in their Safety and Security budget.
According to Smith, it is the biggest boost in funds they have received in several years and comes at a time where citizens feel unsafe and vulnerable.
“It [the extra funds] mean the transport enforcement unit that deals with public transport has gotten a big extra push, as well as tactical response units to metro police that deal with protests and riots. When they’re not dealing with public protest action, they are doing gang enforcement operations. So, they are invaluable.”
Smith further pointed to the importance of crime intelligence and that pointed out that arrests are meaningless without convictions.
“It’s also 250 detectives that go with that [increase in funding], to make sure that we can drive the the investigative outcomes and convictions. It is pointless to achieve more and more and more arrests, but none of those arrests are going anywhere. If there’s a very small bottle neck with your detectives who are under-resourced… investing in the detective support to (secure) more convictions is critical.”
“What we have are serial offenders who come out of prison and commit the same offenses over and over. It’s our job to put them away and keep them away. It doesn’t help to have a revolving door policy where we arrest somebody and they (are soon thereafter) released.”
The safety and security spokesperson highlighted that resources have been problematic across the board.
Smith pointed to an “obvious” correlation between the number of convicted criminals being released on parole and spikes in gang crimes and murders.
“Our failure to invest in adequate development of the court has led to a situation where the interdict applicable to the to the Department of Correctional Services seized large numbers of people being released on parole, continuously.”
“The numbers are definitely increasing because every time the prisons get to that level of overpopulation, they are releasing people. I strongly believe that there is a correlation between the Gang Related murders we saw this past period and that figure. If we go and track where these people were released and on what days, and you go look at where your gang violence spiked and where your Mayhem started – you’re going to see that there’s a correlation between those two things. For me, it’s almost self-evident.”
In recent months, there have been a number of violent protests across Cape Town – many of which relate to service delivery. These protests have consistently resulted in road closures and impact residents’ ability to get to and from work or school.
At the end of September, protesters had set tyres alight and flung stones at passing motorists in Dunoon and Milnerton.
Several businesses closed temporarily and the MyCiti services in the area were also temporarily suspended.
Dyke-Beyer explained that the intelligence-driven operations will also be working to find ways of dealing with these occurences.
“We are definitely affected by protest action. It’s extremely challenging – it has become the new normal where, on a daily basis, we can’t go through certain areas, and what’s more concerning to us than the cost is the effect it is having on our passengers.
They [the passengers] should be able to travel safely and easily to and from home and they shouldn’t have to worry about diversions.”
The deployment of the latest Golden Arrow Bus Services Unit will last until February 2020, with the possibility of extension.