Cape Town - For the past 14 years, Constable Vennessa Hilton* has been working five days a week, including 12-hour shifts at weekends in Athlone, but the SAPS doesn’t pay her a cent.

Hilton, who oversees the same functions as a paid cop, is among the few hundred volunteers left in the service after a 2012 moratorium by top cop brass repealed reservists stipends, among other cuts.

What followed was an exodus of the “weekend warriors”, but Hilton stayed.

Last Friday, provincial police ombudsman advocate Vusi Pikoli announced he is investigating whether the dwindling number of reservists has had an “adverse impact” on service delivery by the police.

Crime activists say there is a correlation between the high number of crimes and the few reservists, especially in the city’s crime-ravaged areas.

“When the stipends were taken away, the attitude of higher-ranking police changed towards us,” Hilton said.

“People think reservists are only there to add numbers on foot patrols, but we go to crime and murder scenes and carry firearms. We are cops who don’t get paid.”

Dr Andrew Faull, independent researcher and associate of safety governance and criminology at UCT, said: “Ideally, a co-ordinated reservist force would be good for policing. But if a reservist is poorly trained, they’re a liability.

“Reservists need to be managed efficiently. It should not be a case of ‘come when you want and do what you want’.”

Faull said the diminishing reservists numbers were not necessarily a reflection of declining interest.

Crime activist Hanif Loonat said the state of the police reservist force was a shambles, and only a revival of reservists would turn the tide against crime in the city.

Loonat said the metro police directorate’s auxiliary cops strategy was a copy and paste of the national police’s initial policy on reservists.

Deidré Foster, police ombudsman spokesperson, said: “The matter of reservists has been a hot topic in recent times.

“(We have) written to the Department of Community Safety, SAPS, the Community Policing Forum Board, as well as the standing committee chairperson.”

Weekend Argus