Cable thieves blind police to crime

Xolani Koyana

CRIME hot spots in Khayelitsha have been without CCTV cameras for three months due to vandalism, while one camera has been out of order since 2011.

This was according to testimony from two senior employees of the city’s safety and security department who gave evidence at the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry yesterday.

During commission inspections in loco three weeks ago, residents had complained about CCTV cameras not working. Kevin Cole, control room supervisor at the Traffic Management Centre, said yesterday the cameras were critical in detecting crime, but were constantly damaged by vandals who steal the fibre-optic cables.

He said of the 16 cameras in crime hot spots in Khayelitsha, six have been out of order since December.

One camera has been vandalised three times. Cole said three cameras which operate as a unit in Site C had fibre-optic cable stolen, while two are missing power units.

Highlighting the importance of the cameras, Cole recalled an incident on the corner of Jafta Masemola (formerly Lansdowne Road) and Pama Road in which a boy was killed in a gang fight.

The incident was caught on camera and the footage spotted by an operator at the Traffic Management Centre in Goodwood. The footage was handed over to the police, who managed to secure an arrest.

Cole said they had a good working relationship with the police through a liaison officer based at the centre who alerted his colleagues to any crimes captured by the cameras.

Senior superintendent in the metro police Chris Moller said the city hoped to have five of the cameras repaired by the end of the week.

He said there was a problem fixing one of the cameras on the corner of Mew Way and Jafta Masemola which has been broken since 2011 because it was constantly being vandalised and Eskom found it costly to keep repairing it.

Under cross-examination from evidence leader Nazreen Bawa, who asked whether the cameras could be used to ascertain crime trends and gather intelligence, Moller said it was something they could consider.

“You can put as many cameras as you like, but you need feet on the ground as well. Cameras did not work on their own.

“You need people on the ground to respond,” Moller said.

Provincial EMS ambulance chief Phumzile Papu spoke of zoning some areas based on the safety of their paramedics.

He said that late last year, EMS management decided to avoid sending paramedics to Site C at night without a police escort because paramedics were constantly robbed.

Papu said they would wait a week to see if the trend had changed before going into such an area on their own.

He said there were also other areas in Khayelitsha, mainly informal settlements, which posed a threat to paramedics as they were not accessible by vehicle. Paramedics would leave the vehicles unattended while responding to calls, only to find them broken into when they returned.

Papu said there were instances when they requested an escort, but police arrived late, and this affected the paramedics’ response time.

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