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31 October 2012 at 15:24 - Posted by FightAgainstCrime

Cops in serious car trouble


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Johannesburg - Police in Gauteng have a serious shortage of vehicles, hand radios and pepper spray, reducing their ability to combat and probe crime.

This was revealed by MEC for Community Safety Faith Mazibuko in the Gauteng legislature after questions were asked by DA MPL Kate Lorimer.

Lorimer said: “This reduces visible-policing efforts aimed at limiting the opportunity to commit crime through police patrols, undermines the response capacity of police, and weakens investigative and detective work.”

Mazibuko said that when it came to torches and handcuffs, most stations had more than they needed.

The DA asked for an equipment list for each station in the province versus the optimal number of each vehicle.

The day before the Marikana shootings, the police authorised the purchase of nearly 90 000 cans of non-lethal pepper spray.

Less than three weeks after the shootings, the police were buying not only the pepper spray, but also riot shields and basic legal textbooks.

The August 16 shootings, when police killed 34 striking miners, highlighted the need for non-lethal options for controlling and dispersing armed and angry crowds.

At Marikana, police used lethal weapons – contrary to standing orders on dealing with crowds that emphasise the need for negotiations, forbid the use of guns and sharp ammunition, and allow rubber bullets only in “extreme circumstances”.

Mazibuko’s reply reveals that the province is short of 689 vehicles required to perform its functions adequately.

Broken down, this translated to a shortage of 356 vehicles in Joburg, 224 in Tshwane and 178 in Ekurhuleni.

The MEC’s reply also shows that police have only 46.7 percent, or 3 816, of the required hand radios and 19.7 percent of the pepper spray needed in the province.

Lorimer said hand radios helped with effective communication between police officers in the pursuit of criminals. The shortage limited their ability to call for back-up or warn other officers of potential threats.

Many police stations had no pepper spray at all, and Lorimer said this left the police with very little means to counter violent protests and strikes with the least possible use of excessive force or violence.

Johan Burger from the Institute for Security Studies said there was little use in releasing numbers for equipment if the MEC did not give the reasons for the shortages and say what would be done about them.

He said the police budget had increased year-on-year and there was little financial reason for these shortages to exist.

The fact that there was an oversupply of handcuffs and torches, but not enough vehicles and pepper spray, showed that the problem might lie with how equipment was managed, Burger added. “Every member should have pepper spray.”

He said the national average for police vehicles per police officer was 3.96 members to each vehicle. In Gauteng it was 3.83 members per vehicle, meaning the province was slightly ahead of other provinces in vehicle numbers.

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