By Dan Plato, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety:
News reports today that the South African Police Service (SAPS) crime intelligence office in Bishop Lavis has seen at least five break-ins this year are alarming. Immediate attention and correction is required from the Provincial SAPS management.
The office, which houses important information on investigations into organised crime, gangs and drugs, have reportedly become a hot spot for vandalism and theft, with laptops allegedly stolen from the premises.
Police sources working at the centre, are quoted as claiming to be too scared to park their private vehicles on site for fear of vandalism and robberies.
I regard this as serious mismanagement which the Provincial SAPS heads have to account for. As part of my oversight mandate over policing in the province I will be conducting an oversight visit to the centre and have today asked Acting Provincial Commissioner, Major General Thembisile Patekile, for his immediate attention and response on the situation.
Invaluable information is kept at the centre which ultimately is responsible for helping our police to get criminals off the streets in the province.
If all the allegations are true it poses a major security risk for the SAPS and a safety risk for community members who have been assisting police in their investigations into organised crime, gangs and drugs in the province.
With conviction rates as low as 3% for gang-related crimes in the province, the SAPS cannot afford to have any evidence or information pertaining to ongoing investigations compromised. We need sound evidence from proper investigations to secure convictions in court and get criminals off the streets.
The George “Geweld” Thomas court case earlier this year showed the lengths criminals will go to in order to avoid prosecution. Six of the potential witnesses in the “Geweld” case were murdered in the run up to, and during, the trial.
Safety and security risks with SAPS investigative information can end in more deaths and less criminals behind bars.
The people of the Western Cape deserve to know that they can work with the police, that their testimonies and information provided to the SAPS is safe and that the police have the ability to protect our communities.
If the police’s capacity to protect their own buildings, equipment and information is called into question, it poses a serious possibility for a breakdown in the relationship between the police and the communities they are supposed to serve.