500 cops to tackle crime on railways

Picture: Facebook

Picture: Facebook

Published May 12, 2016


Parliament - Staff shortages and infrastructure challenges have contributed to a low arrest rate in rail-related crimes, which has spiked in the Western Cape in recent months.

Briefing the provincial legislature’s standing committee on community safety on Wednesday, Brigadier Jaco Bothma, acting head of Rapid Rail Police, said the unit had about 500 members, which were spread across 122 train stations.

He conceded the numbers were not enough to ensure effective visible policing, but added that they were looking into staffing.

“There’s over 100 members currently on training in college and we will increase the numbers by 20 percent in the next 12 months when the people come out for field training” Bothma added.

Listing the challenges facing police, he said infrastructure challenges, including the status of service roads, trains, the openness of the rail network and its close proximity to residential areas, as well as proper lighting and lack of security cameras, hampered policing.

“We must not allow criminals to come into the system. We must block criminals there and then”. But as long as we‘re sitting with open-mind systems, it becomes very, very difficult.”

Bothma said roads were not maintained, making it difficult for police to move quickly to crime scenes.

“If there’s a train burning we must move next to the railway line. Or we are stuck.”

Bothma said the status of the trains was another concern which police had addressed with Prasa.

“Our assessment is very clear that there’s quite a number of these so-called train burnings that is a result of mechanical problems. There are no crimes.”

Committee members were concerned that the unit was under-resourced and lacked intelligence and investigative capacity.

Leading the charge, committee chairwoman Mireille Wengerpointed out that the arrest rate for the past financial years was 9 percent.

Bothma said they used the services of specific provinces for crime intelligence and investigationcapacity.

“We don’t have our own capacity within Rapid Rail Police. The capacity that we utilise is on provincial level. We liaise directly with the province,”Bothma said

He said 6 922 rail-related crimes were reported during the 2014/ 2015 financial year with 3 657 people being arrested.

He added that confiscations made by police in the rail environment in the Western Cape were valued at more than R8.7 million.

“We confiscated, among others, 16 firearms during the previous financial year, 12 stolen vehicles and cables to the value of more than R50 000,” he added.

Wenger said she was under the impression that the Rapid Rail Police operated like a specialised unit, and was surprised that it did not.

“There are simply not enough officers in the unit to be able to cover all the stations and all the trains. If one of their functions is visible policing, this must be improved.

“To think that there are more than a 100 train stations in Cape Town and some of those stations have more than one platform. There should at least be an officer on each platform and on the trains to make sure commuters are safe,” she said.

Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said they would want to see more focus on intelligence to ensure early detection of crimes.

“We can prevent a situation where a train is burning as opposed to dealing with it afterwards.

“Intelligence for us is very important, we want to see more work on intelligence and an investigative focus, particularly in terms of once a crime is committed, we actually apprehend the suspects.”

DA chief whip Mark Wiley wanted to know how it was possible that every train was covered with graffiti, without anyone noticing.

The standing committee recommended that the unit should function as a proper specialised unit with all the capabilities, and be properly resourced.

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Cape Argus

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