Our police system is in a state of paralysis

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Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz has called on SAPS to make better use of the Court Watching Brief reports. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA).

Hardly days after Statistics SA released yet another shocking crime figures with more than 1 million incidences of housebreaking; Northern Cape police officers were attacked and robbed of their guns at the police station.

Four armed men entered the station, attacked and tied up two officers who were on duty, before robbing them of their service pistols. These daring criminals continued to steal the 9mm pistols and two R5 rifles from the safe.

It must be stated it’s not the first time police have been robbed at the police station. How can we forget the mass killings of five police officers, who were murdered in cold blood execution style last year at the Ngcobo police station. One of the guns that was used to commit this hideous crime had been stolen from another police officer in Butterworth, few days before the Ngcobo attack. The motive for these attacks against police, is to get their guns to use in serious crimes.

Our men and women in blue and police stations, are increasingly becoming soft targets for criminals. Daily police officers are killed, attacked and disarmed by criminals for their firearms. If you look closely at these statistics, particularly homes robberies, you will realize most common weapons used in these robberies were guns. This tells you that there is a huge proliferation of guns on our streets.

Another shocking statistics is that of 580 000 incidences of street robbery, guns were the most used weapons.  Guns are being used to commit serious crimes like murder, robbery, hijackings or in gang relate crimes. The gun culture is on the rise in the country. The police service has a deficit of at least 62 000 officers nationally. This further contributes to the stress level of officers, impacting on service delivery and the fight against crime.

Our attitude towards crime and criminals must change. We can’t have a soft approach to criminals or treat criminals with soft gloves. Both citizens and police officers are under-siege. The President must put the country first by capacitating the police, because vulnerable police means ordinary citizens are at high risk of being continuous victims of crime. 

We need to reduce the country’s unacceptably high levels of serious and violent crime through development and implementation of effective strategies to: counter the proliferation of firearms, as this fuel high levels of violent crime; improve safety and security in high-crime areas; combat specific crime generators such as taxi and gang violence, and faction fighting; and maintain security at major public events.

Training of all police officers must be done now to ensure officers are able to follow procedure, collect evidence and lead to successful convictions of all people who commit crime. All police reservists must be employed now to join war on crime as we have a chronic shortage of police officers. The Community Policing Forums must be formalized, equipped and trained to work with police and community against crime. Police stations must be modernized in a way to serve as places of sanctuary for those seeking help.

Through public-private-partnership, government must set-up a structure to work with the well-resourced private security to end the scourge of crime. 

Vuyolwethu Zungula is the President of the African Transformation Movement (ATM).