p>Good communication and having the correct information are vital to tackling crime in one of the most visited tourism sites in the country.
This is according to newly appointed Camps Bay Police station commander Captain Keith Chandler. He also says that crime nearly doubles in the area at this time of year and that more than 50 percent of the victims are tourists. Police in the area have been working overtime for the past couple of weeks to keep up with the thousands of people coming into the seaside town.
Captain Chandler, who has 30 years experience in the police, was appointed to the position last month after being promoted.
He said he joined the police after he left school and still lives where he grew up in Plumstead, now with his wife and daughter.
Captain Chandler was previously stationed at Diep River where he held six different portfolios including that of communications officer. He also has 10 years experience of working with the Flying Squad. “It is very different everywhere you go although I have worked at beaches such as Muizenberg which gets thousands of visitors. What’s new about this area is the number of events that take place here in this period. We are expecting in the region of 25 000 people for these events.”
One of the challenges, according to Captain Chandler, was that there were only three main entry points into the area so traffic congestion was a major issue.
“We are managing, we have extra guys working overtime and the whole station is on standby,” he said.
Captain Chandler said police were also well supported by City of Cape Town law enforcement and traffic services who took part in the beach patrols. He added that the police also have a good relationship with the community police forum and the neighbourhood watches and that there had been engagement with the local business community.
He said that between December 26 and 27, they also had 15 missing children that they had to look after and reunite with their parents. “We fight crime but we are also there to assist people. It is rewarding when you reunite these missing children with their parents. It’s a joy to see these little kids not being scared of the police. That is what we are trying to change. It is about encouraging children to go to the police for assistance and help.”
Another concern of the police at this time of year is water safety but he said there had been no drownings in the area so far. Another big challenge for police was alcohol consumption in public places but he says the public is finally starting to understand that it is not allowed.
“All the alcohol gets confiscated with immediate effect but that is the City of Cape Town’s primary function. In excess of over 400 litres was confiscated over the Boxing Day weekend so it is quite substantial. But we are experiencing less than we have in previous years.
“The community have been brilliant but unfortunately the police station is 101 years old so the maintenance needs to be kept up. With the growing number of people in the area we also need more staff at the station.”
He said that a lot of theft takes place on the beaches when people leave their belongings unattended. “Theft is our biggest crime and our crime doubles in summer. It is very difficult to police and we are trying to engage with tourist companies although that is not enough. We would like to see that more tourists are aware of crime scenarios.”
He asked the community to phone the police should they see anything suspicious. “We need the information to act on it and information is key. We are only as good as our informants and our informants are the public.”
Mr Chandler said it was also important to engage with event organisers in the area.
Even though it may be the time of year that most people take time off and reflect, Mr Chandler has worked right through the festive period with his team. But he says that he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I really enjoy being a policeman, I love my job. It is a calling not just a job.”
BLOB JP Smith, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral committee member for safety and security, said that good cooperation between the City’s enforcement services and external role players such as the South African Police Service and National Sea Rescue Institute was crucial.
“Very often issues cut across these various services and solutions are best found when working together. However, even more crucial is the relationship between various City departments. Our festive season safety plan has been fine-tuned over many years and includes a number of facets that are not always evident to the public as most of the focus is on matters of safety and security when in reality it encompasses a host of City departments including Solid Waste Management, City Health and Social Development.”
Mr Smith added that people trying to bring alcohol onto the beaches remained problem across the city. “We have seen improved compliance in some areas this year. Alcohol confiscations are, however, at a record high. As at close of business on Thursday December 29, 12 950 bottles of alcohol had been confiscated for the month of December, totalling 8 054 litres. The other concern is people swimming outside designated bathing areas, which puts them at greater risk in the event that something goes wrong.”
He added that the City of Cape Town staff engaged with local residents and tourists on an ongoing basis.
According to the City of Cape Town, the 2015/16 summer season saw the highest influx of beach visitors in over 10 years, with more than two million people visiting our beaches between October and March, averaging more than 100 000 people per day on most days during December and January. “Collectively, there were approximately 250 000 visitors to the City’s beaches over the Christmas long weekend – 100 000 of them on the Day of Goodwill, but Camps Bay and Clifton were quieter than usual,” said Mr Smith.