Cape Town - Errant drivers, fine dodgers and illegal drag racers should be checking their rear-view mirrors for a new set of unmarked traffic department vehicles that have cost the city more than R5 million.
The 11 Lexus vehicles will bolster the fleet of the city’s elite crime busters, the Ghost Squad, to around 30 cars, as the council challenges its traffic officers to serve and execute as many warrants as possible on Cape Town’s 100 ‘most wanted’ drivers and warrant dodgers during the national transport month of October.
Cape Town motorists are already alert to the Ghost Squad’s unmarked Volkswagen Golf GTIs with CA registration plates, but the recent acquisition of Lexus vehicles will boost their capabilities as the city pulls out all the stops to arrest reckless drivers and warrant evaders this month.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said the city had not consciously chosen to change the model of vehicle used by the Ghost Squad, but the Lexus vehicles proved to be the best value for money in response to an open tender.
Fitted with all the accessories to do their job, the vehicles cost R473 099 each, cheaper than a new Volkswagen Golf GTI.
“The traffic services department requires higher specification vehicles for chasing perpetrators. The department needs to be well-resourced with reliable vehicles that will offer maximum efficiency. The vehicles selected through a tender process, were found to be most suitable,” said Smith.
The cost and choice of vehicle were still more modest than the traffic departments of other metros such as the Johanesburg Metro Police Department and Tshwane Metro Police Department in Pretoria, which had 3 Series and even 5 Series BMWs in their fleets.
The new vehicles would not only boost the Ghost Squad’s fleet, but also assist with easing the challenges brought on by ageing cars.
Smith said transport month warranted special commitment from the city’s traffic service and the city would be stepping up its operations, targeting outstanding warrants, with a particular emphasis on habitual and serious offenders.
The city has challenged its regional traffic directors to see who can serve the most warrants to a list of 100 ‘most-wanted’ drivers.
It will also be conducting intensive operations using the city’s automatic number plate recognition system over the next week.
As part of this initiative, each traffic services district will be handed a list of outstanding warrants in their area - in some cases as many as 1000 - with the aim of executing as many as possible.
Smith said the metro police would also be co-opted into operations.
“There are a significant number of residents in our city who wilfully ignore the traffic fines they accumulate in the belief that these fines will just disappear, or that the city will not follow up.
“In many cases these are the same residents who think that speed limits, parking restrictions, and licensing regulations do not apply to them.”
Drivers who have a double contempt of court warrant, a bench warrant, or more than three warrants against their name where the summonses were personally served, will be arrested immediately.
In other cases, motorists who have outstanding warrants, will be given the option of paying the fine on the spot or be issued with a Section 72 notice to appear in court.
“Much good work has been done to lower the death toll on the roads, which at one point was on par with the number of deaths in the country due to violent crime.
“Unless drivers feel the consequences of their actions, there is a risk that the results we have achieved through raising awareness and enforcement will not be sustained,” said Smith.
He said it was no coincidence the Western Cape currently has the highest rate of paid fines in the country, as well as the lowest accident rate.
Residents with outstanding fines have been encouraged to settle these as soon as possible to avoid further legal action.