Last night’s public meeting with Knysna’s SAPS leadership representatives and those of Knysna CPF, held at the Smutsville Community Hall, could only be described as frustrating. Both because of the low turnout of community members, and because Sedgefield is still no closer to getting an answer to the burning question – when will it be getting the long-promised fully fledged police station?
With such a topical and important issue up for discussion, one would have thought that the hall would have been packed full of concerned citizens, but this certainly wasn’t the case as only a smattering of people trickled in.
Some of those present pointed out that the meeting could have been started at 7pm so that people had time to get home from work, whilst another suggestion was the use of a loud-haler in the streets of Smutsville / Sizamile, to alert people about the meeting.
But the low attendance did not mean an easy ride for the panel, made up of Station Commander, Colonel Metu, Lieutenant Colonel Detective Commander Khan and Captain Kidd of Knysna SAPS, as well as Sedgefield Sector Commander Sonja Stander, Jessica Trail and Cheryl Brits of Knysna CPF and Juanita of Sedgefield CPF.
They heard tale after tale of poor service from the under-manned Sedgefield Station, from finding the doors locked and the lights off, to waiting hours and hours for response, to actually watching criminals escape because due to lack of SAPS members available to arrest them. There certainly was no shortage of frustration, and some of those present even suggested that mass-action protests might be necessary to get the village’s concerns heard.
Gary Atkinson, whose restaurant suffered a break-in only last weekend, asked how smaller towns such as Dusseldorp could have their own full-on police stations.
But whilst the SAPS members at least acknowledged that the lack of resources in the Sedgefield Sector was a big problem, asking those present to report the individual cases of bad service to the commander for investigation, they were unable to provide any solid answers as to when, if ever, a proper police station would become a reality.
Indeed one particularly shocking revelation came from Captain Kidd who pointed out that Sedgefield Station isn’t even a satellite station, but actually a lesser entity called a ‘contact point’.
“Satellite stations have designated staff who report there for duty, whilst ‘contact points’ have their staff deployed from the larger station,” he explained.
He quickly added that in discussion with Cluster Commander General Reddy, the problems in Sedgefield had been raised, and that they are certainly being given attention.
“I can’t say what or how, but it’s definitely looking up,” he said.
The meeting continued along the same vein for almost two hours, but in the end many of those attending left more frustrated than ever.
Said Mike Hoffhuis, head of Community Orientated Policing (COP) “It was very disappointing to see such poor attendance by the community as a whole. Residents are quick to take to social media and be keyboard warriors, yet when we need them to voice their opinion in person to officials, they are nowhere to be seen.”