Johannesburg - Poor security at police stations has once again been highlighted following the robbery of an R5 rifle and two empty magazines at an East Rand cop shop.
The station had no camera surveillance system, raising suspicion it was targeted by individuals privy to this information when they pounced, allegedly armed with just one knife.
It was the second police station robbed of guns this year. In February, thugs made off with 10 firearms from Ngcobo police station in the Eastern Cape. A heavily armed gang killed five police officers and a retired soldier in an ambush there.
Following the incident, Parliament’s select committee on security and justice called for security at police stations to be beefed up.
In 2015, two soldiers at the Tempe military base were also robbed of their rifles and ammunition by two daring knife-wielding attackers.
In the latest incident, two men stormed the Eden Park police station in Alberton in the early hours of the morning Thursday and ordered four officers on duty to give them the safe keys.
Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said one of the assailants was armed. The Star understands the man was armed with a knife.
“We’re told that those two suspects then ran to a vehicle parked outside,” Peters said.
The getaway was evidently made easier by the fact that the station’s two entrances were unmanned overnight and allegedly left open.
Edwin Mvimbi, who lives opposite the police station, said he often saw its main gate left open at night.
“Lihlala likhamisile,” he said in isiZulu, a phrase loosely translated as “the gate is always wide open”. “That’s no security measure.”
Another security breach was that the station had no CCTV system. “The place has no cameras, I’m telling you,” Mvimbi added.
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said he believed the attackers took advantage of the absence of cameras.
“Personally, I think it’s an inside job. What measures are in place to prevent something like this?” he asked.
Peters confirmed the station had no cameras, but said this didn’t mean “that we’re not concerned about the security of our police stations”.
“It’s just that we did not expect that the authority of the state would be undermined in such a manner,” she said.
The security at the Ngcobo police station was also condemned after the bloody massacre of the officers and the robbery.
“At Ngcobo, SAPS was (now) installing a proper CCTV system instead of just an intercom, as well as a high wall and other measures.
“Regarding the issue of skills, the police were trained at different levels.
“Some units were trained more than others, and the SAPS was trying to upskill workers at dangerous stations so that they were able to fend off attacks,” the parliamentary committee on security and justice has said.
Committee chairperson Simphiwe Mthimunye yesterday said security at police stations needed to improve “seriously and quickly”.
“We cannot afford a situation where a police station is attacked. That is actually an attack on the country itself,” he said.
“It’s a serious concern to us because these guns are used to do crimes that you see in this country.”
The country was currently experiencing a wave of heists targeting cash-in-transit vehicles.
National police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said work towards upgrading security at police stations had been started.
“The security definitely has to be improved. There are stations that we have identified,” said Naidoo.
“We’re prioritising the stations where the need is great. We’ve got more than 1200 stations across the country. We can’t do all of them at one go. The finances do not allow us to do that,” Naidoo added.