Festive safety plan

CCID Public Safety officers patroling St Georges Mall. Shop owners, vendors and the general public are at risk of a growing number of criminals targeting public spaces

Security authorities will have their work cut out for them as the holiday season approaches.

The city centre is home to a number of events including the festive lights switch-on, Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties, night markets, minstrel parades and private events at clubs and restaurants.

However, the City of Cape Town, the Cape Town Central police and the Central City Improvement District (CCID) will be putting measures in place to make the city centre safer.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith, said for the City, this festive season is more than just policing and traffic, but also water safety, beach and facility cleanliness, and the smooth running of large events such as the switching on of the festive lights, the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament, the minstrels events, and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

“Given that most crimes are opportunistic in nature, it stands to reason that big crowds or busy areas will attract would-be criminals looking to pounce on unsuspecting people. The key to managing such events and ensure the safety of people is effective visible policing that is well co-ordinated, but also for the public to be aware of their surroundings at all times and to be vigilant.”

He said the City had developed a Festive Season Preparedness Plan to identify possible public safety and service delivery risks, and to mitigate them through operational and resource planning with the South African Police Service and the CCID.

“Risks that have been identified include road traffic accidents, fires, medical emergencies, safety and security at beaches and pools, unruly and riotous behaviour, crowd surges at events and power failures,” said Mr Smith.

According to Mr Smith, the City will have about 1 139 operational members from the Metro police, Traffic Services and Law Enforcement working across the city over the festive season . “Deployment schedules are adjusted based on risks identified at the regular festive season coordination committee meetings,” he said.

Central police station spokesperson, Captain Ezra October, said the police plan for the festive season is broken down into “pillars”. The first pillar is to address priority crimes. “These are crimes that worry police, and mostly where people are hurt, such as house or armed robberies, for example.”

Another pillar is executing roadblocks. Captain October said police in conjunction with traffic management focuses on getting people safely in and out of the city. “We particularly focus on long distance travelling at the transport exchanges, because many people leave Cape Town to go to their families up country.”

He said people also tend to travel with lots of money because of their holiday pay, and they urge people to keep their money in a safe place.

“The plan for road blocks is not so much to trap drunk drivers. While we do have testing during roadblocks, it is more to ensure the safety on the road,” Captain October said.

“We want to urge our visitors to be alert with their cellphones when they leave clubs, or when calling their lifts or cabs, or even when they are in the taxi cabs.” Police will also focused on shopping centres. There are three shopping centres in the Cape Town Central police precinct: the Golden Acre, the Cape Quarter and the Gardens Centre. “People come to shop and malls get congested, so pickpocketing becomes rife, and we want to be prepared for this. ATM scams remains a concern for us, and we’ve also noticed the spate of mall robberies, and we don’t want that to come to the city centre. In partnership with the CCID and the mall security, we will better our visibility.”

He said the Central SAPS will also free some of the detectives to do patrols in the malls. “Some of the suspects are known to the detectives, so we will be able to identify them and watch them closely. The administration staff will assist at the front desk so we can have support staff on patrol.”

As the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign approaches, starting on Saturday November 25, Captain October said Central SAPS will be embarking on programmes to create awareness and focus on these crimes. “This sort of crime is too high in our country. In Cape Town Central, we don’t have so many reported abuse, but our officers are exposed to heinous criminal situations because we have the family court in our precinct, so we are aware of it.”

Some of the measures include detectives placing a higher focus on working harder to prosecute reported abuse.The last pillar is safety at events. Captain October said the CCID plays a huge role in assisting police with this. “We rely heavily on our security roleplayers here. We need businesses to also sharpen up their security this festive season, and to hire more casual staff to be eyes and ears.

“We would also like Cape Town Tourism to increase awareness for guests about crime and about the water restrictions, and using reputable transport. We need to work together to make the festive season a safe one for all.”

The Cape Town Tourism CEO, Enver Duminy, said visitor safety is a primary concern, and Cape Town Tourism has partnered with other role players to ensure that safety is prioritised, from mountain, beach and water safety to safety on the streets. “Opportunistic crime is an unfortunate truth in destinations across the world, and visitors should employ the same kind of caution they would anywhere, not storing large amounts of money or displaying valuable goods.”

He said Cape Town Tourism is sharing water saving and safety messaging at the organisation’s Visitor Information Centres across the city, including at Cape Town International Airport and via Thando, the mobile Visitor Information Centre, that moves around between tourism hotspots.

He urged visitors to Cape Town to travel with registered guides and in groups, not to go into isolated areas, especially at night and ask locals if there are specific hotspots to avoid.

The CCID security manager, Muneeb Hendricks, said their biggest concerns were twofold: people are in a festive mood, and often not aware of or don’t want to think about the possibility that they could become victims of crime, and, secondly, people usually have money to spend at this time of the year, and criminals are aware of both of this. He said they also notice an influx of youth to the CBD who tend to drink alcohol out of their vehicles. “We would like to issue a stern warning that this behaviour is not allowed. Together with our Law Enforcement partners, we are going to strictly enforce the Liquor Act and, if perpetrators are caught, all alcohol found will be confiscated and the perpetrator issued with a hefty fine.”

He said the prominent crimes in the CBD include theft out of motor vehicles, pickpocketing and ATM fraud. He said ATM fraud criminals are organised, very clever in their tactics to con people, and are always adapting their methods.Mr Hendricks said for the holidays, they will be boosting their efforts, particularly from Wednesdays to Saturdays, when the night-time economy is at its most active. “We will have the usual 80 CCID public safety officers on duty, as well as an additional 10 extra officers a shift. Each shift will also have five lock-up vans patrolling along with two rapid-response vehicles.”

He said the CCID deployment also includes an eight-person impact team that provides visible presence in hotspot areas as required, and four CCID-funded law enforcement officers during day time and eight law enforcement officers at night time dealing with by-law infringements.

In addition, there are also have six CCID-funded traffic wardens during daytime hours dealing with traffic congestion and violations. With regard to events, Mr Hendricks said events must always have their own security plans and teams in place as part of the permits they obtain from the City, so within an event footprint itself, the CCID will not be operational. “However, we are always very aware of big events and deal with them throughout the year and we always deploy in the same way: by alerting our teams to increase patrols around the event, said Mr Hendricks.