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Metro Police

JOHANNESBURG'S  metro council has taken the initiative against crime by creating its own city police force, the Metro Police Service, and mounting video surveillance cameras in strategic spots to keep a watch on the streets. Some R258-million has been allocated to the fight against crime, and hundreds of new metro policemen will be hired over the next three years. The initial focus is on the city's worst crime spots, which are patrolled by policemen in cars and on bicycles, in radio contact with a monitoring centre that watches the pavements on banks of video screens. The new initiatives are already showing signs of success.

Johannesburg City Council spokesman Keith Peacock says the Metro Police Service signals the dawn of a new era of crime fighting, with police working together with the community to achieve results. Visible policing has an important role to play, with the Metro Police aiming to form relationships with businesses and schools.

THE Metro Police Service has a call centre that can be reached at 375-5918.
For help in any emergency situation, contact Jo'burg Connect at 375-5911.

What is the function of the Metro Police Service?

BESIDES dealing with day-to-day crime, the Metro Police fulfil some specialist functions not covered by the SAPS. These are:

  • Policing road traffic
  • Enforcing municipal bylaws
  • Enforcing municipal regulations

Why was it necessary to form the Metro Police Service?

IN 1999, one in every four Gauteng residents was the direct victim of at least one crime. Research has shown that economic crimes are focused in the northern and central parts of Johannesburg, while violent and sex crimes occur more frequently in high-density, lower income areas. Gauteng has the largest concentration of cars in the country, and over 50% of vehicle hijackings in South Africa take place in this province.

The City Of Johannesburg recognised the problems posed by crime and the resulting loss of confidence among residents. Previously Johannesburg's policing fell under 16 law enforcement agencies, five local government security agencies and various traffic law enforcement agencies. At a meeting of the various agencies it was decided that crime could be more effectively combated by joining together the fragmented agencies. Thus the Johannesburg Metro Police Service was born, with the aim of augmenting the work of the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the municipal area of Johannesburg.

After visits to various countries including the United States, Canada and Egypt, a plan was formulated that drew on the lessons learnt from overseas programmes and the best South Africa had to offer. Today the Metro Police Service is implementing this plan to play its part in improving the city of Johannesburg.

What does the Metro Police Service cost?

THE service was started at an initial cost of R258-million per annum, to be increased annually by about 10%. The executive head of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department, Chris Ngcobo, said the money was raised from the budgets of the disbanded traffic department and security department responsible for guarding council premises. In addition, Ncgobo said a campaign is underway to recoup some of the outstanding money owed on traffic fines.

What policing initiatives have been put into place?

ONE of the main aims of the service is to restore the public's confidence, and the key to this is visible policing. There are more policemen on the streets and more attention is being paid to requests from the public to deal with crime. The Metro Police Service has about 2 500 members. Over the next two to three years this will be expanded to about 4 000 members. Metro Police Officers are easy to spot in their new uniforms of blue shirts, brown trousers, black leather boots and baseball caps sporting a Metro Police Service badge.

The Metro Police Service has been allocated 45 BMW 320Ds for freeway patrols and 120 Nissan Sentras to patrol the various precincts in the Johannesburg unicity's 11 regions. There are also mounted police, bicycle and dog units, and a helicopter. The service is planning to expand its number of Nissan Sentras over the next two years to 700 vehicles. A plan is also in place to put more officers on bicycles.

Of particular importance is the focus on the inner city. Metro Police have been working hard to enforce municipal bylaws and this involves dealing with street traders, civil disobedience, combined operations with other departments and working in other areas that don't fall under the jurisdiction of the SAPS. Specific areas that have been targeted include environmental health laws, fire hazards and buildings.

These initiatives require work with a host of other departments - Home Affairs to deal with illegal immigrants, the Health Department to deal with health issues and the SAPS to deal with problems involving drugs and liquor.

What areas are being focused on in the short-term?

THE Metro Police Service has identified five areas that are in need of - and are receiving - immediate special attention in the fight against crime. They are the inner city, Diepsloot, Alexandra, Orange Farm and Soweto.

How does the video surveillance system work?

THE video camera system is perhaps the city's most exciting anti-crime project. In an initial pilot project, 15 crime surveillance cameras were set up in the area surrounding the Carlton Centre, where the security office is located. Even in this limited pilot project, the cameras have had a significant impact. According to Riaan Parker of Business Against Crime, the company that designed and operates the system, crime in the area has fallen by 40%. Over the next year, the system will be rolled out to include 350 cameras covering the entire CBD from Braamfontein in the north to Ellis Park in the east, the M2 freeway in the south, and Newtown in the west.

Cameras are hidden in buildings overlooking strategic spots on the pavements of the CBD. On the sixth floor of the Carlton Centre, a huge room has been filled with banks of video monitors. In front of each bank, two men sit watching the screens. If they spot an incident, police on the street are sent a radio message, and they reach the trouble spot in an average of 60 seconds. The aim is to cut down the reaction time to closer to 10 seconds over the next few months. The system, initially developed for the Cape Town CBD, where a 75-camera system has already reduced crime by 75%, conforms to international best practices and has the potential to be sold abroad.

Parker said that between April last year, when the 15 pilot project cameras were installed, and December, 136 arrests were made from 285 reported cases and from those 99 prosecution dockets were opened. "Confidence in the Johannesburg CBD as a clean and safe commercial, retail and residential centre is growing," said Parker. "The secret of our success is that people are not aware of the installation of the cameras. They will wonder why they are caught immediately when a crime has been committed." If criminals know of the existence of the cameras, that knowledge is enough to keep them from breaking the law, Parker said.

Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo has pronounced the surveillance camera project a success, and hopes that businesses that moved to suburbs such as Sandton, Rivonia and Rosebank will consider a return to the city. Masondo says he is prepared to commit himself to the installation of more cameras, especially in areas such as Soweto and Alexandra where crime is on the increase.

The Metro Police Service has been criticised for cracking down on minor law-breakers at the expense of more serious crimes. Is this the case?

THE Metro Police Service believes all issues of crime are important. Smaller issues are important in the bid to establish a law-abiding society. If the smaller issues are not dealt with there is no foundation to work against crime.

Johannesburg City Council spokesman Keith Peacock says the philosophy is that preventing minor crimes will help cut back on more serious crimes - an approach first adopted by the New York City Police Department. "If people learn to obey the basic rules of society, they are less likely to get involved in more serious crime," said Peacock.

It appears that a traffic fine blitz has been introduced. Is this true?

THE Metro Police Service is determined to end the culture of non-payment of fines and disregard of the law. Many people appear to think that when they receive a fine, that is the last they will hear of it because of the backlog of court cases. However, the Metro Police Service wants members of the public to understand that should they break the law, they will be held accountable.

What is being done about unroadworthy minibus taxis?

THE Metro Police Service is working with the provincial authorities to address problems surrounding minibus taxis, and particularly whether or not the vehicles are roadworthy.

What training do Metro Police Officers receive?

RECRUITS to the Metro Police Service undergo training at the Metropolitan Police Academy. According to acting chief superintendent Mike Smith, new recruits are required to be in possession of a valid driver's licence and have no criminal record in order to qualify for the six-month course. Recruits not in possession of a matric certificate undergo assessment by Technikon SA to determine whether they have the necessary literary and arithmetic skills for the job.

Recruits undergo training in firearms, techniques on how to make arrests, accident reporting and how to present evidence in court. Once recruits have completed their six-month training course they are employed as officers on foot. Further training is done annually, with all officers completing at least 18 hours of in-service training in which they are briefed about any amendments to the Road Traffic Act and Police Act. Metro Police Officers wanting to specialise in the Equestrian or Dog Units undergo additional training.

Smith believes the Metro Police will lighten the load of the SAPS by making arrests and then handing the dockets over to the SAPS to investigate.

Former security guard Mabunda Lymon is an example of the new breed of police officer to be found in the Metro Police Service. According to Lymon, during his six-month training course he learnt first aid and weapons training with both pistols and rifles. Lymon said the pistol and rifle training requires that recruits hit a target at least 70% of the time from distances ranging between three metres and 40 metres. The day for recruits begins at 6.30am with a parade at the Metro Police Academy, followed by basic fitness training. After that, the day is spent in the classroom, studying laws such as the Criminal Procedures Act, the Road Traffic Act and the Police Act.

 

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