Policing sector 1, under which the city centre and a portion of Gardens fall, has a new sector manager.
Captain Richard Lourens is fresh in Cape Town and already has plans to help combat crime in Sector 1 – the largest contributor to crime in the Cape Town Central police station precinct.
Captain Lourens started his policing career after his army service in 1991.
“I am intolerant of crime. I wanted to make a difference in society, so I decided to join the police.”
Captain Lourens then formed part of the Public Order Policing Unit in Pretoria for 17 years, before moving to the equestrian unit.
“Being in the equestrian unit is hard work. You have to look after and feed your own horses. I had two horses – Zarba and Fulbert.
“Horses have a higher focus point. It’s effective in preventive and community policing.”
After working in the equestrian unit for nine years, Captain Lourens applied for a transfer and got a job in Cape Town. He now lives in Fish Hoek.
Captain Lourens said since he has been here, he has been introduced to the security partners in a stakeholders’ meeting held weekly.
“I’ve been familiarising myself with the sectors. The sector I work in is the busiest, the biggest, and the most in the limelight. It’s a very big change, especially coming from a specialised unit.”
He said Sector 1 has the most crime and everyone knows it. “It’s the most dense area and has a huge influx of people.”
One of his goals is to get the bicycle unit up and running again. “I’m an avid mountain biker and I’d really like to get the police officers on bicycles again.”
He said that bicycles are effective as they cover more distance than foot patrols, and could also contribute to fitness of police officers.
“I believe crime will go down if we get bicycle patrols up and running, because we can saturate the area,” he said.
Asked about what he has learnt about the area so far, he said that Long Street is one of the most problematic areas of Sector 1.
“Common theft is a concern in the club strip. However, we have weekly operations and we are doing the best we can with the resources we have.”
He said ATM fraud is also a concern.
“It usually happens when people are cornered when using ATMs inside stores, but we are busy compiling a list of all the ATMs in the precinct, as well as creating awareness of ATM fraud in collaboration with the City Central Improvement District (CCID).”
CCID security manager, Muneeb Hendricks, said after meeting with Captain Lourens and briefly chatting to him, his impression was that Captain Lourens was a dedicated police member intent on making a difference in the CBD.
“He seems to be absorbing as much as he can prior to the implementation of any sort of programme, which is the smart thing to do.”
Mr Hendricks said he would like to see Captain Lourens form relationships with stakeholders in the area; address the identified concerns from the community and not just what the crime reports depict; run awareness campaigns educating the public; conduct joint operations with agencies such as CCID and City law enforcement, focus on minor offences to inculcate a culture of law abidance in the CBD, recruit SAPS foot patrols for the CBD to improve visibility; and make use of all available resources in his sector.
Asked about the bicycle patrols, Mr Hendricks said the CCID would support this programme.
“We ourselves have four bicycles on the street per shift. Bikes enable law enforcement agencies and their members to be in better contact with what’s happening on the street and will improve SAPS’ visibility. A SAPS bicycle patrol will be better able to traverse the CBD roads without getting stuck in traffic. Plus of course, bicycles are much better for the environment as well.”
Mr Hendricks said the best advice he could give Captain Lourens is to not try to do it alone. “Use all available resources and agencies willing and able to assist. And we would also encourage him to be present on the streets and not just a presence at sector meetings. A successful leader, in the eyes of the law enforcement agencies as well as the community, is someone who is seen working side-by-side with his teams on the streets.”
Captain Lourens said it is impossible to please everyone.
“We are not miracle workers, but we do the best we can as officers, and luckily we have help from other agencies like the CCID, Law Enforcement and cameras.”
Cape Town Central Community Police Forum (CPF) spokesperson, Ryan Morris, said he met Captain Lourens on his first day on the job.
“He comes across as a strong and passionate officer. He has extensive policing experience, but as he said to me, he has lots to learn in his new position. He has a great team around him of experienced sector managers, so I don’t believe it will take him long to learn the ropes.”
Mr Morris said that he had been assigned to his team on the CPF Crime Free Night, which took place on Friday June 29. “I look forward to what he has to offer.”
He added that he is also looking forward to Captain Lourens building on the current relationships with the many safety and security role-players in the city, such as the CCID and City Of Cape Town’s law enforcement, traffic and metro services.
“We have seen great success in the partnerships against crime, and trust Captain Lourens will use these partnerships to improve the safety of our city centre. We look forward to new ideas and a fresh set of eyes.”
Of the bicycle patrols, Mr Morris said the CPF welcomes the idea. “A bicycle officer is a lot more accessible to the community, allowing members of the public to engage more with the police. Bicycles allow officers to navigate freely around the city without delay, and have access to areas such as alleys and congested areas where vehicles can’t access, and foot beat officers won’t get to in time.
“The biggest disadvantage is the lack of protection offered by a bicycle.”
He said the CPF advises Captain Lourens to use all the resources around the sector to the benefit of the public.
“We can achieve a lot more when working together as a team.”