File picture: Supplied / City of Cape Town
Cape Town – The Rail Enforcement Unit (REU) has arrested 238 suspects on a range of charges including assault, armed robbery, possession of drugs and stolen property, malicious damage to property and theft.

This after 29 767 stop-and-searches were conducted on trains, platforms and at stations across Cape Town between October 2018 to October last year.

Metrorail acting regional manager Raymond Maseko said commuter safety on trains and stations and eradicating the debilitating impact of metal theft on service industries was a key priority.

“The members of the REU are valuable force multipliers to the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) Protection Services and the Rapid Rail Police Unit in the fight against crime and metal theft,” Maseko said.

During the year, 2 225m of copper cable and 865kg of stolen metal were impounded.

There were 2471 inspections of hotspot areas and scrapyards, and dangerous weapons and equipment used for vandalising and stealing rail infrastructure, including hacksaws, spades, cutters, knives, screwdrivers, hammers, crowbars, blades and scissors, were confiscated.

A pilot rail safety project funded by Prasa, the City and the province, the REU comprises 100 law enforcement officers who have been trained as peace officers to work together with Prasa’s security to focus on the safety and security of Metrorail commuters and infrastructure.

Mayco member for transport Felicity Purchase said 55 arrests were made under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act.

“The Act provides for stricter bail conditions and harsher sentences, including up to 30 years’ imprisonment for those caught and convicted of destruction of essential infrastructure. 

"I firmly believe the REU has made an impact, but the harsh reality is that it will take time and more resources to deal with those who are vandalising and destroying our rail network while we are working to stabilise the service.

"Urban rail should be the backbone of public transport in Cape Town and commuters’ mode of choice because it is cheaper and more efficient than any road-based transport. 

"Unfortunately, we have a long way to go and until such time, our road network will remain congested, and the cost of transport will remain high, and our local economy will be constrained because people and goods cannot move as efficiently as needed,” Purchase said.

To report illicit and suspicious activity contact Metrorail’s Protection Services hotline on 021 449 4336/5056.

Cape Times