Cape Town. 130725. Dan Plato voicing a strong opinion over the youth being marginuilsed in Cape Town in Parliament today. Reporter Cobus Coetzee. Picture COURTNEY AFRICA

Cape Town - Western Cape MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato has called on Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to stop delaying the provision of police resources to the province, where crime levels have increased drastically in the past five years.

The province has the highest number of understaffed police stations and the largest personnel shortages overall. Police reservist numbers have also dwindled, with 22 159 paid reservists being used in 2008, compared with only 2 759 in 2012 – an 88 percent decline. Plato said this was a result of restrictions imposed by the minister of police.

“Last year, the provincial SAPS, because of restrictions on the recruitment of new reservists due to an almost five-year ‘moratorium’ on reservists by the national minister while finalising a new policy, simply aimed to maintain the same reservist work hours of the previous year. The result, however, was 1 100 fewer reservists on our streets, with a net decrease in 82 000 police hours last year,” said Plato.

He said the drastic drop in police numbers had been accompanied by an increase in crime levels, especially in high-risk areas like the Cape Flats.

“In our communities, there is a lack of police visibility, and not enough manpower, and this is where the government is letting them down.

“Since the exit of our reservists, we have seen a spike of violence almost immediately.

“Our provincial SAPS cannot do its job without sufficient resources. The longer the national minister waits, the worse off the people of this province will be, and the more vulnerable are our existing officers.”

According to Plato, Mthethwa told to the National Assembly last year that the Western Cape SAPS had a shortage of 1 012 members, which accounted for 61 percent of the national shortage.

Mthethwa had also said 128 of the 150 stations in the province were understaffed, with a net gain of only 681 officers in the preceding four years. “No funding was made available for 2013/14 for the Western Cape by the national SAPS, so no additional posts could be allocated. This is concerning when provinces such as the Free State, according to the minister, have 920 surplus members,” Plato said.

The number of attempted murders increased from 1 776 in 2008 to 3 280 last year, while the number of burglaries in residential areas increased from 42 000 in 2008 to 49 599 last year.

Plato said the increase in these crimes was mainly because of the decrease in the number of reservists, who played a back-up role.

“The national government has spent a great deal of time tweaking policies on police reservists, with the aim of improving this function. But these changes have made it far more difficult for someone to become a reservist.

“I regularly encounter former reservists who have offered their services to the SAPS, only to be turned down. I also encounter members of the public who tell me that they want to train to become reservists, but have been prevented from doing so.”

Warrant Officer Keith Chandler, the reservist co-ordinator at the Diep River police station, said the lack of reservists was directly linked to rising levels of crime. It had been four years since the last intake.

The police minister’s spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, complained that they had not seen the contents of the letter because of when it was delivered – over the weekend – and said they had not been given enough time to respond. He slammed Plato, saying he wanted to be a “pop idol”.

“We have noted this disturbing pop idol trend that letters get delivered on Friday when there is nobody to respond and then holding a press conference on a Sunday. This is very unfortunate,” said Mnisi.

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Cape Argus