STATION commander Brigadier William Slabbert is No 1, and, right, with some of his ace team from the Margate police station, who are winning the war against crime.
Durban - Criminals on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast best beware because the police in Margate have taken protecting and serving their community to another level.

The police station was recently named best in the country, at the SAPS National Service Awards held in Mpumalanga. In November, the station bagged the SAPS’ KZN version of the award, and a month later, it got the same recognition when Ray Nkonyeni Municipality staged its Mayoral Excellence awards.

In landing the latest accolade, Margate was ranked best among 1164.

Front line service delivery, corporate image, neatness of appearance, client satisfaction, partnering with community-based organisations and performance were the criteria that adjudicators of the award considered.

“The award is a great achievement because it recognises the work we’ve done in honouring our calling as the police, which is to serve and protect,” said Brigadier William Slabbert, Margate’s station commander.

Slabbert, who took up his post about 18 months ago, has been widely praised for his leadership style and commitment to service delivery that has led to the turnaround in the police work done at the station.

STATION commander Brigadier William Slabbert

However, he refused to take the credit and said “teamwork” was the cornerstone of their achievements and came through joint efforts of his members, security companies and the municipality’s protection services.

He said their approach of going “back to the basics” of policing was key to their success.

“We started to police the municipal by-laws better and that has helped to curb crime in Margate,” he said.

For a long time, the holiday town was regarded as the housebreaking capital of South Africa. For eight consecutive years since 2011, police crime statistics showed there were more than 1000 incidents reported in Margate.

But Slabbert is confident his station will soon shed its housebreaking tag.

“Give us three months and that tag will be a thing of the past. We have formed effective partnerships with body corporates and others, our housebreaking stats have already dipped by 30%,” Slabbert said.

“We have the most holiday houses and flats in the country and for about 60% of the year, they are unoccupied.That’s when the housebreaking usually happens,” Slabbert said.

When Slabbert took charge of the station for a second stint, he previously held the reins from 2000 to 2007, and Margate also won the Saps provincial service award in 2001, he said there were “negative attitudes”.

“There were two things that needed to change. We had to make the station environment more conducive for work, and we looked at the needs of the community.

“The main thing they complained about was the policing of by-laws. I promised them change wouldn’t happen overnight,” said Slabbert who joined the SAPS 32 years ago.

“We have no secret recipe. Everyone is respected and cared for. Along with our sector managers, we also have a dedicated person who does follow-ups to ensure that everyone who reported a matter or used our services had a pleasant experience.”

Slabbert said the team also had a good record when it came to solving serious crimes.

“We have two task teams that are mobilised when something major happens and they don’t rest until arrests are made.”

He singled out a political killing that happened in May. “I assured Police Minister Bheki Cele that we would make an arrest in days and within four days we had two suspects.”

Slabbert said the community has since reported that they felt safer and appreciated their high visibility.

Harry Nondaba, the head of Nkampini Community Policing Forum (CPF) confirmed: “We feel safer. Police in Margate take their job seriously and they respect the opinions of people.”

Ernest Booysen, chairman of Uvongo’s CPF, said: “We have just come off a major festive season that brought about 30000 visitors to our town and we had no major incident.

“There is a good working relationship between police, security companies and municipal law enforcement.”

Johnny de Vet, Margate’s head of tourism, said: “A safer town is good for business.”

“It’s the safest it’s ever been and much of it is to do with brigadier’s leadership, “ said De Vet, who has liv­ed in Margate for 50 years and has held various local government leadership positions.

Sunday Tribune