Cape Town – Golden Arrow commuters can feel a lot safer thanks to City of Cape Town law enforcement officers' patrols on buses.
The initiative between the bus service and the City is intended to protect commuters. Twenty officers of the Rail Enforcement Unit, some uniformed and others in plain clothes, will also be deployed randomly on buses.
This year several Golden Arrow buses have been petrol-bombed, with four coming under attack in June, with other incidents where passengers were robbed.
The deployment has already resulted in numerous successes. A group of 20 officers were appointed through the Expanded Public Works Programme last month to patrol buses along routes identified by Golden Arrow Bus Services, which is funding the project entirely.
Set to be in place until February 2020, officers are mandated to conduct search-and-seizure operations on buses and at bus terminals in the interest of commuter safety and to enforce relevant by-laws, the City said.
They have already identified hot-spot areas, in consultation with Golden Arrow, and these are patrolled on a regular basis.
To date, officers have made six arrests for various offences, including possession of dangerous weapons, drugs and even a suspect who was caught illegally connecting electricity, as officers were passing by the Freedom Park Informal Settlement near Bishop Lavis.
Among the items confiscated were a gas pistol, dagga, four knives and a pair of scissors, as well as a bottle of brandy. The minor who was caught consuming the alcohol was also removed from the bus.
Officers have also provided security to passengers and bus drivers on two occasions, where one vehicle had a flat tyre and the other engine problems.
"It’s only been a few weeks and already the officers are making an impact – not only on the buses, but also in general enforcement, and assistance to the public.
"As they continue to find their rhythm, I have no doubt that the number of successes will increase for the benefit of bus commuters as well as the public in general.
"It is critical that we make public transport a safe and viable option for residents, if we are going to make a serious dent in the paralysing traffic congestion that has become part of life in Cape Town and that is why this partnership between the City and Golden Arrow is so important," said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, JP Smith.
According to Golden Arrow, passengers have responded positively to the deployment of the unit.
"The feedback that has been received from passengers thus far has been very encouraging and we would like to request that passengers continue to provide their full co-operation to the team," said general manager Derick Meyer.
Golden Arrow spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer said: “At any given time there are about 20 officers on board our buses. Yesterday, we actually searched a landmark 500 buses.
"We do use operational intelligence to target those areas, but obviously we don't want to give out that information to the public because everything we do is intelligence-driven and the element of surprise and secrecy is extremely important.”