Today the Democratic Alliance (DA) conducted an oversight inspection at the Sophiatown Police Station. The inspection follows the DA-led city of Johannesburg deploying 60 Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JPMD) officers last year, to root out drug dealers and end gang violence in the area.
Westbury has in recent years become a hotspot for gang activities and violence, and safety in the community has been hamstrung by a severely under-staffed and under-capacitated police service.
The DA met with the station management who revealed that although the additional JPMD personnel has aided in restoring calm to the community, the station is still short of at least 30 officers to increase visible policing. Currently, the Sophiatown SAPS only has approximately 240 personnel available, when they are in urgent need of 270.
While the DA is pleased that the deployment of JPMD officers provided some relief, policing is ultimately a national competency and the onus rests on Police Minister, Bheki Cele, to increase personnel deployment to this SAPS station immediately.
A lack of officers severely hinders the SAPS’ crime¬fighting efforts, especially relating to stations such as the Sophiatown SAPS which is mandated to cover Westbury and Westdene, over and above their mandate for Sophiatown. Chronic lack of manpower hinders visible policing, which is essential in the prevention of crime, especially in gang-ridden communities.
Given the growing safety needs of South African communities, one can assess the severity of our lack in policing manpower with data from the United Nations, which recommends a police to population ratio of 1:220. Currently the average officer to citizen ratio in South Africa is 1:383. This makes policing efforts particularly difficult for our officers.
Communities like Westbury, deserve an honest and professional police service which is well-trained, well-funded, well-resourced and fully capacitated – run by a capable provincial government, as per DA policy.
South Africa needs a police service which is able to fight crime through dedicated and committed personnel. To have an under-staffed police force in an area threatened by regular occurrences of gang violence not only endangers citizens, but the brave women and men in blue who risk their lives for the safety and order of community.