Ghost Squad powers on, ten years later

09 Jul 2019 in Where We Govern

The traffic enforcement unit has racked up thousands of successes in the decade since its launch on 9 July 2009, and the work continues, particularly in the area of illegal street racing.

The City of Cape Town’s Ghost Squad is officially ten years old.

Launched on 9 July 2009, the team was established to create an illusion of omnipresence to reduce transgressions by the motoring public.

The Ghost Squad started out with 12 traffic officers and an inspector, using unmarked vehicles and working irregular hours to clamp down on especially serious driving offences like reckless and negligent and drunk driving.

In the first few months after launch, the unit was averaging 2 210 offences per month.

The unit was expanded over time to 30 staff members and three supervisors, 20 vehicles and 10 motorcycles.

Today, it is slightly smaller (23 staff members), but the rate of enforcement has nearly quadrupled since launch, to an average of 7 986 offences a month.

Seven of the officers attached to the unit have been there since day one.

Apart from serious moving violations, the officers have also made countless arrests for serious crimes like the possession of illegal firearms and drugs. But, they also have a softer side to them, including helping to deliver a baby on the side of the road, carrying drunk drivers to safety and saving suspects from harm.

‘Cape Town’s Ghost Squad was a first for the country and just one of many innovative approaches to enforcement that we have undertaken in this City. The dedicated officers who spend most of their nights policing the poor choices of road users, like illegal street racing, have provided a layer of invisible policing that has caught thousands of suspects in the act.

We have a culture on our roads of behaving reasonably well only when we see marked police or traffic vehicles. The Ghost Squad has done tremendously well in tackling errant motorists who commit serious moving violations which could lead to crashes and result in serious injury or even death, and their efforts must be commended,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

Below is a quarterly snapshot of the Ghost Squad’s enforcement interventions.

Apart from its unique undercover approach, the Ghost Squad has also embraced new technologies to assist with enforcement, including dashboard cameras and body cameras, as well as handheld devices to expedite checking for outstanding traffic fines and warrants.

It is envisaged that new vehicles will be acquired for the unit in this financial year, as well as the fitment of front and rear dashboard cameras in all of the unit’s vehicles.

‘The work of the Ghost Squad, but the Traffic Service in general, is becoming more difficult. The unreliability of our public transport sector means more cars on the road, more congestion and thus more pressure on our staff. Add to that the ever-growing list of complaints about behaviour in the public transport sector and illegal street racing, and one develops a new appreciation for the challenges that the staff face on a daily basis to maintain law and order. That the Ghost Squad has managed to maintain its overall performance amid all of these challenges, speaks volumes about the commitment and determination of these officers to make our roads safer,’ added Alderman Smith.

A video clip is available here: