Cape Town - Metro police officers are renting handheld service radios to tow-truck drivers to help them get to accident scenes faster, says mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.
This after the arrest of a vehicle-towing company owner in Blackheath who was found with six police service radios, a war room base radio and two metro police radios on his premises last week.
Smith said when officers reported that their radios had been stolen or gone missing, the radio was disabled internally, so officers instead rented their radios to tow-truck drivers.
But it was difficult to determine just how many radios had been rented out, Smith said.
“We have auditing systems which show if all the officers’ radios are present, but we have had instances where on-duty or off-duty officers hire out radios. They obviously cannot be traced, but these are dismissible offences,” Smith said.
The City’s safety and security department met disgruntled tow-truck company drivers who expressed concern that the industry was not being regulated.
Drivers explained that “rogue tow-truck companies”, who wanted more business, had been threatening the lives of others in the industry, Smith said.
“It is vital that legislation to regulate this largely unregulated industry be passed,” Smith said. “This industry suffers from a severe lack of regulation.”
National police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said police security was compromised if radios got into the wrong hands.
“We views these cases in a very serious light,” he said. “If you look at this problem, it’s not a widespread problem, but it’s very serious if those radios get into the wrong hands because that compromises our security.”
Naidoo added that the police discouraged anybody from being in possession of a police radio “in the strongest terms”.
“We want to send out a strong message that such perpetrators will be made an example of and dealt with harshly,” he said.
The towing industry is not regulated, which means there are no standard tow-truck sizes and no control over how many vehicles are on the road.
United Towing Association of South Africa national chairman Ettienne Pel said over the past eight years the towing industry had made numerous attempts to try to have the industry regulated, but a lack of government support had left the industry in limbo.
A regulation document was drawn up by the association in 2014, Pel said, but still there had been no support from the government, other than the Gauteng department of roads and transport, which recently stepped in.
“The industry is saturated and it does not have the support of national government,” Pel said.
The spokesperson for transport and public works MEC Donald Grant, Siphesihle Dube, said the regulation of the transport industry, whether it be freight, tow truck or other, was a national competence, not a provincial one.
John Motsatsing, of the national department of transport, said however that the department had made a request to the South African Bureau of Standards to assist with the development regulations and it was waiting for it to finalise its processes.
“The regulatory process can not precede the development of the specification,” Motsatsing said.
Pel said the industry had tried to regulate itself a few years ago because of the saturation and businesses wanting to protect their own interests, but it did not work.