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22 February 2012 at 12:17 - Posted by Anonymous

Police response times slashed by nearly half


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Joburg’s sector-policing initiative appears to be working well.

Since the initiative was launched 17 months ago, the police’s reaction time to complaints has improved by about 18 minutes.

From a reaction time of 39 minutes in 2010, the latest figures show an average per incident drop to 21.07 minutes.

The sector-policing initiative divides each of Gauteng’s 138 policing precincts into sectors. The sectors are manned by two officers, who roam the area in a designated sector vehicle, each equipped with a cellphone and a hand radio, 24 hours a day.

Officers are required to respond to crime calls.

The Star conducted random tests of the sector numbers in 49 areas in Gauteng.

Of the 49 stations, 22 passed with flying colours.

Calls were answered within three or four rings. Most of the officers were friendly when answering calls and were eager to help.

Just under 25 percent of the 49 stations failed dismally – with the majority of cellphones off and on voicemail, or left to ring unanswered until they switched to voicemail.

And 18 of the 49 stations ranged widely – with between 35 percent and 50 percent rates of calls answered.

The numbers were tested during the day, at night, on weekdays and on weekends.

Bramley and Linden came out tops, with all the calls being answered.

In Lenasia South, Dube, Johannesburg Central, Fairland, Dobsonville, Bedfordview, Primrose and Sandringham, only one call went unanswered.

In Randburg, an officer who missed a call at 10.10pm returned the call 15 minutes later, saying he hadn’t heard it ring.

 

Problem areas included Rosebank, Parkview, Alexandra, Tembisa, Langlaagte, Protea Glen and Elsburg.

Neither Rosebank, Langlaagte nor Elsburg had calls answered, while in Parkview, only one call was answered.

In Alexandra, only four calls, around 3pm on Friday afternoon, were answered.

Ten of the calls went straight to voicemail. And four of the calls rang until the phone went to voicemail.

In Tembisa, calls were made around 10pm on Sunday. Sixteen of the 22 phones were off. Five of the calls were answered and a sixth call was dropped.

Andy Mashaile, chairman of the Gauteng Provincial Community Police Board, said sector policing was taking steps in the right direction and improved the community’s confidence in the police.

But there were problems that affected life-and-death situations. These included cellphones that were off and difficulty in identifying areas in informal settlements.

Mashaile said a lack of numbers on shacks affected response times, and in some areas the streets were too narrow, affecting access.

Resources – both manpower and physical – were still a concern, Mashaile said.

“There are two cars per sector – 24/7, 365 days a year.”

Mashaile noted that one of the recent vehicles he had checked had 308 000km on the clock.

“The officer told me its top speed was 80km/h. What happens if you are chasing a guy in a BMW?”

The amount of time the older vehicles spend at the garage was worrying, said Mashaile.

“When there is only one car in a sector, you have to cover a larger geographic area, which is problematic.”

Station commanders in Joburg agreed. “It’s one thing to say that the cellphone has to be available 24 hours a day, but it’s another thing in reality. It must be used, answered, charged and kept charged, which is not so easy. That cellphone can’t be available 24 hours a day.”

The station commanders said that to keep the required two vehicles per sector, sometimes they had to increase the area of the sector, which also affected reaction time.

Wendy Vorster-Robertson, chairwoman of the Sandton Community Policing Forum, said sector policing had seen reaction time drop from 38 minutes per incident to 13 minutes.

She said the station was giving encouragement to officers who had the lowest reaction times by having them declared the top shift of the quarter. Each officer on the shift also received a R100 Makro voucher.

“It’s not much, but their pictures go up at the station and we make a big fuss of them.”

Provincial police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila said

there had to be 1 150 sector vehicles. Currently there were around 1 000 vehicles, and they were working towards two vehicles per sector. - The Star

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