With such feelings about the continued problem of dangerously poor service from SAPS, simply due to lack of manpower and other resources for Sedgefield and surrounding areas, the local Ratepayers, Community Orientated Policing and other role-players in the crime protection field have taken the bull by the horns and asked for answers at provincial level, through the following open letter.
OPEN LETTER FROM SEDGEFIELD RATEPAYERS AND RESIDENTS. TO DAN PLATO, WESTERN CAPE MEC FOR COMMUNITY SAFETY, AND CLUSTER COMMANDER MAJOR GENERAL REDDY WITH REGARD TO LACK OF SAPS SERVICE TO KNYSNA SECTORS 5 AND 6 (SEDGEFIELD / KARATARA / RHEENENDAAL), WE WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT THE FOLLOWING.
1. Over the last 20 years the population in Sedgefield, Karatara, Rheenendal and Buffalo Bay has quadrupled to an estimated permanent population of 15 000 (info from Knysna Municipality).This figure at least doubles over the seasonal holidays.
2. Other towns much smaller in area and considerably lower in population have fully fledged police stations.
3. Sedgefield was promised a fully fledged station ‘by the end of the year’ back in 2004 by SAPS Director Dirk Mentoor. At the time we were informed we were third on the list. To date nothing has happened.
4. The existing satellite station has no holding cells. On more than one occasion, the community has offered to build and fund holding cells – this has been turned down each time with the promise of a new police station. In some instances criminals apprehended have escaped whilst incarcerated at the inadequate police station.
5. Land situated in a better position than the current satellite station ie. more easily accessible to the low income groups, has been offered by the Municipality to SAPS Management. Once again this has not been accepted by SAPS.
6. On most occasions there is only one SAPS vehicle available. Often it is in Knysna – 25kms away, Karatara – 21kms or Rheenendal – 27 kms. This leaves the village open for criminal activity. It is common to wait several hours or sometimes days for response.
7. Most of the local residents know that the two police shift changes which take place daily, leave the various outlying sectors without any form of policing or response to complaints whatsoever. This open window period is often used by criminals to commit crimes.
8. Sedgefield has a huge drug problem – with almost ‘open trading’ because SAPS do not have the resources to police this. This results in the lack of control of criminal activity. Children are finding crime attractive as there does not seem to be a consequence to criminal actions.
9. Neighbourhood Watches and Community Policing are having to take on more and more of SAPS responsibilities on a first responder basis. This puts them in dangerous positions. Residents are also starting to take the law into their own hands – there are obvious dangers associated with this too.
10. Lack of trust in SAPS is growing. Residents are no longer reporting crime as they fear reprisal and no protection from SAPS. They are also not reporting because it is believed to be a waste of time.
11. There is a low conviction rate – no doubt due to overworked and understaffed detective and police units. Growing disrespect for SAPS from offenders, who are happy with the good chance of being back on the streets soon.
12. Complaints to Knysna Police Station Commander have yielded no results.
We appeal to the above persons to consider the plight of this town and its residents and install the fully fledged police station as promised years ago. In the meantime we ask for the current station to be reasonably staffed and equipped so that we are not left at the mercy of criminals.
A copy of this letter has been forwarded to MEC Plato’s offices and those of Cluster Commander Major General Reddy, as well as our local SAPS chain of command. At time of going to press no response had been received.