Westville Operation Take Back receives mixed reactions

AN operation, meant to prevent crime in the Westville area, has caused different reactions with some applauding the initiative while others believe it is unconstitutional.

Last Friday, a post was put up on the Westville community policing forum’s Facebook page, informing residents about Operation Take Back.

According to the post, the operation included a process to register beggars’ fingerprints on a data base to prevent them from begging again in Westville.

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The Highway Mail asked chairman of the CPF, Alex Gloster to give readers a detailed report of how this decision was reached. Gloster said the post, which has evidently raised concerns, was published pursuant to his obligations to the communities to keep them informed of developments.

He said there was an article published in the press, a while ago, regarding a drive to enforce ‘nuisance’ bylaws, with particular reference to the matters of ‘robot begging’ and vagrancy.

“Parallel to this, there were numerous concerns raised by the communities regarding their safety and potential risks from this quarter, given that there had been a number of articles regarding smash-and-grabs at traffic lights, thefts from ATM customers, stabbings, and similar incidents,” explained Gloster.

He said these concerns were raised with the SAPS directly, and to the SAPS via the CPF structure.

“The matter was proactively engaged by the station commander of Westville SAPS and brought to our attention at the executive meeting of the CPF in September.

“The station commander, Col Zwelakhe Zondi, indicated that he had petitioned the court system for the most appropriate and proper way in which to enforce these bylaws. The approved process was outlined to the executives. Thereafter, the topic was listed as an agenda item at the community meeting of September, and the topic was introduced by myself to the community members who attended, and then detailed by the station commander.

 

He said the specifics of the process would be available from the SAPS if his outline below is not 100 per cent accurate, but in short the following is understood to be applied.

– Those members of the community unfortunate enough to be in the position of having to beg, or living as vagrants, are approached and the law explained to them.

-They are asked permission for their fingerprints and details to be captured, and they sign acceptance/approval or otherwise, also acknowledging that they have been made aware of these bylaws.

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-In the event of complaints being received, those on the ‘register’ can be excluded or identified as the case may be.

-If the alleged perpetrator is on the ‘register’, that individual can be addressed directly and a determination made as to whether the allegations have grounds. If they do, then the individual is counselled.

-If further complaints are reported against that individual, then that person would be arrested and taken to the police station. (No doubt this would be dependent on the nature and severity of the alleged transgression).
(It must be noted that the SAPS will investigate allegations and effect arrests based strictly on their obligations and powers. The SAPS do not decide who is guilty or what punitive action would apply, if any).

 

“The intent is to protect the indigent from wrongful allegations, allow for identification of repeat offenders if that is the case, and to see the proactive management of crime, if, where and when it becomes evident.

“There is no reason to believe that this is an independent action by the SAPS or the CPF. The station commander, his officers and staff, are doing their duty and I believe they have gone above and beyond in ensuring that a fair and transparent process, approved by the legal system is being applied, for the protection of all in the application of the laws and bylaws.

“I do not believe that the Westville SAPS are the first station to apply such a programme, but the considerate and transparent manner in which it has been structured is commendable. Perhaps it is how the programme has been interpreted and shared that is at fault, but the intent is certainly professional and proper,” said Gloster.

KZN police spokesman, Col Thembeka Mbele, said it is a project initiated by the SAPS to prevent criminal activities in their policing area, “but we cannot divulge further information on the operation.”

 

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  AUTHOR
Sanelisiwe Tsinde
Journalist/Photographer

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