Durban - The Westville Community Policing Forum has clarified the motives behind the launch of the controversial ‘Operation Take Back’ which has been met with mixed reaction from residents and local government.
Last week, a photograph of a policeman scanning the fingerprints of a known beggar in the area, surfaced on Facebook along with an explanation of the operation which seeks to profile beggars and vagrants in Westville.
In response, the ANC’s provincial spokesperson in KZN, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, said the operation was disgusting while police national spokesperson, Brigadier Vish Naidoo, called the process unconstitutional.
Westville CPF chairperson, Alex Gloster, said there were numerous complaints about the potential risks that those who begged at traffic intersections posed.
“There had been a number of articles about smash-and-grabs at traffic lights, stabbings and similar crimes and these concerns were raised with police and via the CPF,” he said.
Gloter said the matter was taken to the Westville SAPS station commander who indicated that he had petitioned the court system for the most appropriate and proper way in which to enforce these bylaws.
Gloster said in nutshell, beggars were approached and the process of their ‘vetting’ explained to them.
He said the vagrants are asked if they can be fingerprinted and their details captured.
“They are asked to sign that they were made aware of bylaws and that they accept or approve to their details being captured. In the event of complaints being received, those on the register can be excluded or identified as the case may be. If the alleged perpetrator is on the register, that individual can be addressed directly and a determination made as to whether the allegations have grounds. If they do, then the individual is counselled. If there are further complaints that are found to be perpetrated by that individual, then that person would be arrested and taken to the police station,” Gloster explained.
He said all of the above would be dependent on the severity of the transgression.
Gloster said he did not believe that the operation was to protect the vagrant if they were accused of wrongdoing.
“The intent is to protect the indigent from wrongful allegations, allow for identification of repeat offenders if that is the case, and to see the proactive management of crime where and if such becomes evident. There is no reason to believe that this is an independent action by the SAPS or the CPF. The station commander, and his officers and staff, are doing their duty, and I believe that they have gone above and beyond in ensuring that a fair and transparent process, approved by the legal system, is being applied for the protection of all in the application of the laws and bylaws,” he said.
Gloster added that the approach by Westville SAPS is considerate and the operation is transparent.
“Perhaps it is how the program has been interpreted and cascaded that is at fault, but the intent is certainly professional and proper,” he said.
The operation has been given the thumbs up by hundreds of residents across the city.