Cape Town’s cops face festive challenge

Cape Town – Metro police, law enforcement and traffic services will be stretched this festive season as the City of Cape Town has admitted these...

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Cape Town – Metro police, law enforcement and traffic services will be stretched this festive season as the City of Cape Town has admitted these departments are understaffed.

Thousands are expected at the switching on of the festive lights in the city centre tonight and thousands more are expected in Cape Town over the holiday season.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said there was a shortage of staff in every city department .

This was due mostly to law enforcement and metro police resources having to take some of the responsibility of policing crime, Smith said.

“Generally, there is always a need for more capacity in these departments; however, we will strive to do our best with the resources we have available.”

The city has 450 traffic officers, 550 metro police officers and 600 law enforcement officers at its disposal to oversee the entire city’s road network over the holidays.

The traffic cop numbers for the Western Cape are just as bleak, with 620 officers expected to be on duty.

For a second year, the Mother City has been ranked as the most congested city in South Africa and the 47th worst in the world, the annual traffic index from TomTom indicated earlier this year. Capetonians are said to spend an extra 40 minutes in traffic on an average day compared to other cities.

“Our resources are tested during the festive season. We will not have more staff, our staff will work overtime and without their willingness, we would not have been able to pull through,” said Smith.

As a result of such overtime, the city’s festive season costs are well in excess of R100million annually.

But cleaning up after major events takes a big chunk of cash – R40m, said Smith.

Part of the city’s strategy is to set up roadblocks on major routes and in areas with historically high incidence of drunk driving and crashes and on routes in and out of popular recreational areas and events.

The city’s traffic services will also join forces with the Western Cape Traffic Department to ensure vehicle and driver “fitness.”

This will particularly affect the long-distance sector from December 12 to 24 at Joe Gqabi, Bellville, Intercape and Greyhound bus terminals.

“The city focusses on maximising its resources so that tragedies such as road deaths are prevented as far as it is possible to do so,” Smith said.

“We are hopeful the experience we have built up over many years of enforcement will assist in lowering the death toll on the roads. However, it is the behaviour of residents and tourists themselves that will be the major determining factor.

“Alcohol consumption plays a large role in deaths from traffic accidents and from drowning and as such residents should be aware that the city will show no tolerance to drunk driving and alcohol consumption on beaches.”

The Disaster Risk Management Centre will co-ordinate major incidents or disasters, said Smith.

“The city’s disaster risk management team is on 24-hour full alert and is geared for all eventualities.

“On days deemed a high risk, disaster risk management staff, volunteers and other rescue resources will be deployed across the metropolitan area at beaches, swimming pools and tourist destinations for crowd control and first aid assistance.”

The city will look at water safety, beach and facility cleanliness and the smooth running of large events such as the Festival of Lights, the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament, the minstrels events and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Spokesman for Wilderness Search and Rescue Johan Marais said special attention will be given to rosters to ensure enough trained volunteers will be available around the Peninsula.

“There is always an increase in incidents over the festive season, basically because the are more people on Table Mountain,” he said. “There were 374 incidents last year, often more than one a day, and 80 percent of these incidents attended to were on Table Mountain.”

Source: Cape Town’s cops face festive challenge | IOL