Brigadier defies the odds

Brigadier Hansia Hansraj

It’s been a year since Brigadier Hansia Hansraj became the station commander at the Cape Town Central police station – a journey she described as challenging, but, at the same time, enlightening.

Since her appointment, not only has she had to manage the station, but she also lost her daughter to cancer and was a witness in the court case against former provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer and other SAPS top brass.

Despite it being a tough year, she managed to win a number of awards for the station, including first place for police excellence, awarded by the Western Cape Police Ombudsman, and a certificate of commendation for the second highest number of arrests in 2017/2018.

Brigadier Hansraj was promoted from head of Goodwood police station last year, where she had served for eight years. From heading a small station such as Goodwood, Brigadier Hansraj now has a staff of about 540 police officers and six sectors in her police precinct, with very different dynamics.

“The change has been challenging, but at the same time I’ve been getting to know and understand the dynamics of Cape Town. Even so, I believe more can be done here.”

Brigadier Hansraj has 27 years of service under her belt, during which she worked at six police stations in her home province of Kwa Zulu- Natal, before being promoted to head of visible policing at Goodwood police station.

She then did a short stint at Hout Bay police station as the station commander, before returning to Goodwood police station as the station commander. She said crime in the areas she worked at was very different and somehow prepared her for the scale of crime she had been experiencing while working at Cape Town Central police.

“Hout Bay is a contact crime station. There, focus crimes are robberies and murders, and there were many shebeens in Mandela Park and Hangberg that needed – policing. “Goodwood station dealt mainly with property crime and contact crime, but not many murders. The balance of these two has prepared me for Cape Town Central, where there are so many dynamics.”

She said there was a bigger scale of activities, in the city bowl, and thus a bigger scale of crime.

“The policing needs also differ. In the city, there are lots of homeless people which contribute to crime, and also a large population which comes in and out of the CBD every day.

“There are also lots of events which also require a policing presence, so you need to plan better, and you need to have better strategies in place.”

She said she would focus on a strategy this year to fight organised crime.

“Suspects in the city centre change, so you have to be more focused.

If we focus on syndicates, we are able to get more done and ensure proper prosecution of syndicates, therefore ensuring a reduction in crime.

“We will be able to focus on other areas of crime if the syndicates are no longer operational in our precinct.”

Another focus area for Brigadier Hansraj is tourism. “Some of the tourists are not aware of the crime that affects the area, and they are not being made sufficiently aware. This is our responsibility.”

She said that during previous years, tourists would not report crime because when they returned to the country, they could not testify or the case had been withdrawn due to lack of evidence or no witnesses. “We have now found a new way to deal with this. We are working with the National Prosecuting Authority to try to wrap up such cases more quickly, and also to allow tourists to testify via Skype.”

She said the biggest contributor to crime in Cape Town Central remained theft from vehicles.

“We are looking at environmental strategies, such as creating safer spaces in those areas. However, it works two ways. People need to be more vigilant.”

She added: “We’ve also placed officers on Table Mountain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and deployed more officers at the club strips.” She said they also aimed to build better relationships with the security role players in the area. She said she was monitoring her team’s performance and addressing corruption.

“I have 540 staff to manage – I had to set clear instruction when I arrived. We’ve already arrested three of our own. I have to make it clear to the staff that we don’t need you here if you are corrupt.

“I’m not afraid to take on our own. Integrity is the most important thing when you work in the South African Police Service.”

Central City Improvement District security manager Muneeb Hendricks said he met Brigadier Hansraj during her first week of appointment. “I found her to be firm but fair, a stickler for the rules and someone who does things by the book – no shortcuts allowed. She is very approachable and will give attention to issues raised.”

He said some of the visible changes that had taken place since Brigadier Hansraj’s appointment included resources being deployed to where they were most needed, an increase in the size of the liquor enforcement unit, and reshuffling and expanding the sector commander component to suit the needs of the areas they serve.

Cape Town Central’s spokesman, Captain Ezra October said Brigadier Hansraj had brought stability to the station after a two-year period during which the station – had an acting station commander.

“She’s also the first woman station commander we’ve had in 10 years.

She’s brought a woman’s touch to the station – it’s so much cleaner now, and she always asks the staff how they are and is always there when they need to chat, and at the same time, she’s tough.”