Crime Stats: Under-Resourcing Affecting Western Cape

By Mireille Wenger MPP, DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Community Safety:

Today’s release of the annual crime statistics shows increases in violent crime indicators in the Western Cape. The critical under-resourcing of the Western Cape police is taking its toll and the National Police Commissioner continues to ignore the Western Cape.

Under-Resourcing

  • The Western Cape is the most under-resourced province with 85% of our stations being under-staffed;
  • The Western Cape SAPS has 2392 vacancies;
  • The Western Cape has 588 detectives, or 14% less detectives than we should have.
  • Visible policing around the province has 2249 less officers patrolling our communities than we ought to have.
  • Should all the granted posts be filled, it would mean approximately 20 additional officers on the ground for each station in this province, of which 4 would be detectives.
  • While the national police to population ratio is 1:358, stations in the Western Cape with the highest crime rates, have disproportionately low numbers of officers serving these stations. Nyanga, which records exceptionally high numbers of murders had one officer for every 1418 citizens. Khayelitsha and Harare, which also have high numbers of murders had police to population ratios of 1:1675 and 1:1702 respectively;
  • The number of police reservists declined from 22 159 in 2008 to a paltry 2700 in 2012 in our province alone. The reduction in reservists in just 1 year, equated to 82 000 less police hours;
  • The 10111 call centre has less staff that it did 6 years ago and the call scanner which tracks the number of abandoned calls has been broken since 2013.

Under-resourcing appears to have a negative impact on crime and on the safety of citizens. The Free State is the province with the highest surplus of officers, with almost 1000 additional members. It is no wonder then that this province managed to show a decrease in 25 out of 32 crime indicators. The Western Cape by contrast has the largest shortage of officers with over 2000 vacancies.

Unresponsive Commissioner

Because SAPS is a national government function, and provinces and provincial parliaments have no operational control over policing, but an important oversight role, the Western Cape Parliament has taken this matter up repeatedly with the National Commissioner.  The National Commissioner however has been entirely unresponsive to our petitions for her to address the critical shortages.

In November last year, I wrote to the National Commissioner to raise concern and requested a report on what steps are being taken to address the severely under-resourced police service in the Western Cape and to fill the high number of vacancies.  The Standing Committee on Community Safety requested the Commissioner to present to the Provincial Parliament on this concerning matter. To date, no report and no response has been received to present to the Provincial Parliament, despite several follow-up letters.

The National Commissioner has a duty to the citizens and to the officers of the Western Cape. A properly resourced police service is essential in not only combatting and preventing crime, but also in protecting officers.

We all want to the same thing, to live in a society which is peaceful and where the fear of crime is low.  In order to achieve this, police management must address under-resourcing in the Western Cape as a priority.