On July 15, Cape Town Central police reservist Captain Anthony Harrington will have served the community voluntarily for 29 years.
During his time, he had been been shot at, chased with knives, bitten by a dog and intervened with gangsters, however, this was his first experience of a national lockdown.
“Lockdown was very different. When it started, we saw no one on the streets, but this also gave us a good indication of who the suspected criminals are lurking around. We made a number of arrests for theft during this time. It was a different kind of challenge.”
Captain Harrington, from Strandfontein, joined the South African police as a reservist in 1991 because crime was high and he wanted to make a difference.
“I worked with a man who was a reservist and he urged me to join. I started out at Manenberg police station after training, and then moved to Steenberg and then Wynberg.”
He said during 1993, the police started a community police officer (CPO) project because there was a shortage of police officers on the beat.
“Myself, along with hundreds of other reservists, moved to Cape Town Central police station.
“This was also the year that the CCTV cameras were rolled out as crime was high. It was also the time that apartheid was coming to an end,” he said.
“It was the first democratic election, so it was a hard and busy time for South Africa.”
Captain Harrington worked as part of crime prevention, and was in charge of a team of 50 reservists after he was promoted to warrant officer.
He also formed part of the policing at some of South Africa’s most iconic events, including the opening of Parliament, the day of Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990 and the Soccer World Cup in 2010.
He said crime at Manenberg and Steenberg was different to the CBD.
“At the other stations, there were lots of gangsters and mediation and even fights with gangs. In the city centre, crime is property-related, so it’s more theft out of motor vehicles and robberies.”
Captain Harrington, who was a constable at the time, made the papers in 1998 after he arrested two robbers at Retreat train station while travelling home from the city centre.
Three gunmen had robbed dozens of commuters on the train between Wittebome and Heathfield train stations and had a lengthy shoot-out with security guards and police. Two men were arrested and two guns confiscated.
Captain Harrington said he heard gunshots in the train and was investigating the situation, when one of the robbers pointed the gun at him and shot four times. He wasn’t harmed in the incident and sought refuge at the nearest pole.
According to Captain Harrington, the robbers received a 40-year sentence each. “I was so glad to be alive. I found bullet holes in my trousers when I got home.
“This story could have ended differently, and it is an experience I will never forget. This is all part of the job.”
He received a SAPS reward for bravery for the arrest.
Captain Harrington said what keeps him going as a reservist is the comfort of having helped someone, or changed someone’s life.
“You are where you are for a reason. When I go home, I get into my bed with a clean conscience, knowing I helped make a difference.”
He said during lockdown, crime decreased significantly, but now that the city centre is starting to open again, and more people start wandering around as the restrictions are lifted, we will start to see more criminals looking for opportunities.
“All crime decreased, but we still worked. We held roadblocks and arrested people for not abiding to curfew, as well as illegal sales of cigarettes. It was also easier to catch criminals during chases as there were no crowds for them to disappear into.”
Captain Harrington said next year, he plans to hang up his boots on his 30th anniversary of being part of the police.
He said during his time, he got to know the area, his colleagues, magistrates and the courts.
“I’ve built such strong relationships over the years. I work with the communities in Bo-Kaap and Springfield Terrace often, and I’ve made many friends there.”
Captain Harrington said during his time at Cape Town Central, the station was led by over 30 station commanders.