Western Cape trains 250 more officers to send to hotspots for festive season

13 September 2021 - 17:49
By Sipokazi Fokazi
Half of the Western Cape's Leap officers being deployed are women. File photo.
Image: Western Cape Government Half of the Western Cape's Leap officers being deployed are women. File photo.

The Western Cape‘s crime-fighting efforts received a boost when 250 law-enforcement officers were recruited for the province’s most dangerous neighbourhoods.

On Monday, community safety MEC Albert Fritz said the new Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (Leap) officers would be ready for deployment in some of the crime hotspots in the Cape Flats by mid-December, in time for the festive season.

In the next few weeks, the Leap officers will receive training in how to use a handgun, a tonfa (baton) and pepper spray, how to stop and approach people, as well as radio procedures.

The new intake brings the number of Leap officers in the Western Cape to 1,081. The unit has 110 Leap commanders, who have already been deployed.

Fritz said the new officers would increase visible policing in the identified crime hotspots in Cape Town. The officers are being deployed as part of the Western Cape safety plan which was launched late in 2019, when the province and Cape Town were dealing with a murder epidemic.

To date, women make up almost half of the Leap officers.

Premier Alan Winde has previously said the province would spend R1bn a year in a bid to halve the province’s murder rate in a decade. He said 3,000 law-enforcement officers would be trained to plug the policing gap caused by the understaffing and underfunding of the SA Police Service.

Fritz said last week that the Leap officers had conducted 7,078 person searches, 345 house searches, and 879 vehicle searches in the hotspots. The officers also conducted 104 autonomous operations, and 100 joint operations with the SAPS.

The operations led to the confiscation of 60 full Mandrax tablets and 76 half-tablets; 66 packets and 14 parcels of dagga; 96 packets of tik; 96 units and 18 straws of heroin, and other narcotics. Confiscated dangerous weapons included a panga and two swords, as wells as knives, illegal guns and ammunition.

“Over seven days we are searching more than 1,000 suspicious people in our crime hotspots every day and are searching more than 100 vehicles every day,” Fritz said.

“During the presentation of the latest quarterly crime statistics a few weeks ago, the national commissioner [Lt-Gen Khehla Sitole] spoke about the importance of visible policing in fighting crime. And that is exactly what our Leap officers are doing. Their work rate is really impressive. And with 250 more officers, the work rate will only increase and intensify.”

Winde said when the province launched the safety plan in September 2019, the aim was to make communities safer through a combination of violence-prevention and law-enforcement initiatives.

“It is only fitting that as we approach the second anniversary of this launch we have begun training the third cohort of Leap officers, to be deployed in our crime hotspots by the end of the year. I commend the city and provincial government on their joint partnership, which has made the Leap programme possible, and which has made our most vulnerable communities feel safer,” he said. 

News of the training for new Leap officers comes on the back of calls from Fritz for greater policing responsibility to be devolved to provinces and not only be centralised nationally.

“The current centralised approach to policing is not working, as evidenced by the SAPS’s own statistics,” Fritz said.

“As the provincial government, we want to get more involved. We received no resource allocation for Leap, but we’ve nevertheless managed to train and deploy more than 1,000 officers. We have laid the foundation with our provincial safety plan, and we are ready to take it to the next level.”