Provincial police numbers continue to decline

Ocean View’s acting police station commander, Captain Nick Spreeth, says they are understaffed in all areas including detectives, visible policing and support staff.

The number of police officers in the province is continuing to decline, according to the Western Cape’s Policing Needs and Priorities Report released by Police Oversight and Community Safety MEC Reagen Allen.

There are 21 367 SAPS-funded posts for the Western Cape, but only 19 505 of them were filled for the 2020/21 financial year, Mr Allen told the Echo

“The number of vacancies has worsened for the 2021/22 financial year, with only 18 867 posts being filled. This shows how high the average vacancy rate is across the province,” he said..

According to Mr Allen, the province has a police-to-population ratio of one officer for every 452 residents.

“It’s worse in the City of Cape Town, where it is 1:622,” he said adding that the picture becomes worse when you consider that 13 priority stations in the province have a higher ratio.

These stations as of 2021 are Harare with a ratio of 1:879; Khayelitsha, 1:628; Samora Machel 1:778; Gugulethu, 1:773; Kraaifontein 1:721; Delft, 1:711; Philippi, 1:594; Mfuleni, 1:583; Nyanga, 1:559; Mitchell’s Plain, 1:535; Bishop Lavis, 1:535; Atlantis, 1:515; and Philippi East, 1:398.

The provincial government is required by law to submit the policing needs report annually to the national government so that is recommendations can be included in planning, said Mr Allen.

“Yet it is clear that these recommendations are not taken into account,” he said.

Ocean View’s acting police station commander, Captain Nick Spreeth, said they were understaffed in all areas including detectives, visible policing and support staff.

Staff who had retired or been transferred had not been replaced, he said.

“This has left the station with a lack of resources and manpower.”

Muizenberg Community Police Forum chairman Derrick Muller said Muizenberg police station was doing “an excellent job” even though it was understaffed.

Fish Hoek police spokesman Warrant Officer Peter Middleton said most police stations, including Fish Hoek, were considered understaffed, and positions stood vacant when staff were transferred.

“They go from one station to the next station and that post remains vacant until it is advertised. Our strength has been weakened by this,” he said.

It was unfortunate, he said, when members of the public phoned the station only to be told no vehicle was available.

“It’s not necessarily that there is no vehicle but rather the personnel that are required to man the vehicles for the purposes of attending to complaints,” he said.

In December last year, a shortage of staff and resources at the Simon’s Town police station prompted the entire executive committee of the Simon’s Town CPF to tender their resignations (“Simon’s Town CPF resigns over police staff shortages,” Echo January 12).

Simon’s Town police station commander Captain Vishnu Pillay said the matter was being addressed by the SAPS provincial office.

However, provincial police spokesman Colonel André Traut told the Echo that the police stations in the far south had sufficient staff.

“The police stations are staffed with a sufficient number of police officers to provide an effective policing service to the communities and these stations do not form part of the top-30 crime contributors of the province and are therefore not on the priority list for the allocation of resources,” he said

“Resources are allocated according to crime patterns, and areas with higher levels of crime are prioritised. This priority is by no means an indication that stations with lower or satisfactory crime levels are always overlooked when human or other resources are divided.”