Durban - Ridding Durban of vagrants is a losing battle, police conceded this week.

This came to light after metro officers arrested 2 541 vagrants across the city’s suburbs, parks and surrounding areas in the past 21 days.

Thirty-four of the vagrants and drug addicts were found to be foreigners and were deported back to their respective countries when they could not produce legal documents.

A further 15 were wanted criminals and were arrested for a range of crimes including housebreaking, robbery, theft and possession of drugs.

But metro police spokesman Senior Superintendent Eugene Msomi said it appeared officers were arresting the same criminals.

“We are doing our job and taking these guys off the streets,” a frustrated Msomi said yesterday.

“Unfortunately what happens thereafter is out of our hands. These guys do appear in court, but they get released and you find that three days later they are back on the streets, stealing and terrorising the community of Durban.”

This cycle was exasperating for the officers.

“But they have resigned themselves to it. It is very frustrating for everyone involved in this clean-up campaign. It’s just one and the same cycle,” he said.

The clean-up operation, in which 60 officers drive through “every area in Durban” rounding up addicts and vagrants every morning, started three weeks ago.

In the last week alone, 550 arrests had been made by the special team of metro police officers who head the operation.

Not only was the operation time consuming, but it needed resources.

“And then to see the guys back on the streets after working tirelessly to arrest them is really demotivating.

“But we can’t sit back and fold our arms, we have to do something – we just have to,” he said.

Last week Msomi urged Durban residents to alert them to vagrants, and the squad of officers would then round them up.

“People did heed our call. It’s just that we are being failed by the court system,” he said.