Cape Town - 120613 - A suspect is arrested for the possession of ammunition during a Metro Police Gang Unit operation that stretched across the cape flat. 4 people were arrested (including a 14 year old girl) and 42 9mm rounds, 15 bags of Tik and one stop of Dagga were found. - Photo: Matthew Jordaan

Cape Town - People have begun to lose respect for the police, leaving officers vulnerable to attack, Community Safety Minister Dan Plato has said.

Plato plans to put his finger on the pulse of public sentiment towards the police through a four-month series of meetings with people across the Western Cape.

He announced the Policing Needs and Priorities community consultation project during a press conference on Sunday.

“I get a sense that respect for the police, for their authority, for that blue uniform, is becoming a problem in the Western Cape,” he said. “Without respect for the police, officers become easy targets to attack. We need to get back that respect for the SAPS.”

The project would give Plato’s ministry an alternative source of information about residents’ policing needs, since the release of national crime statistics once a year was inadequate.

“When we receive the national crime statistics, it’s 12 months too late. Give us monthly crime stats so we can track crime trends and be more proactive.”

The consultations will involve 25 public meetings across the province - one for each police cluster - between the end of this month and the beginning of December. The first is in Worcester on Saturday.

The aim is to provide a platform for the public to complain directly to the people who provide the service. Those complaints will be compiled into feedback, to land on the desk of the national police minister.

Plato will attend the public meetings, along with police generals, CPF chairpersons, neighbourhood watch representatives and other interested parties.

“The public can, face-to-face, tell the police general what they think of policing,” Plato said.

The same consultation process was run in 2013/14. Plato said a lot of criticism of the police emerged from the meetings, and people were generally unhappy with the service provided by police. It had also emerged that many police stations struggled with limited resources.

Plato hoped the project would help identify areas of greatest need so that resources could be channelled accordingly.

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Cape Argus