Hout Bay police are failing to respond to criminal complaints, says a Hangberg man who has lodged a complaint with the provincial police ombudsman.
Michael Baartman approached the Sentinel with his concerns last week, saying he had had no response to the complaint he lodged on Friday February 24.
At a subsequent meeting with Hout Bay police station commander Colonel Jerome Syster, on Friday May 26, he and other residents raised their grievances about policing in Hangberg. Only Mr Baartman was prepared to be named. The others said they feared being victimised by criminals in the community. However, their names are known to the Sentinel.
Colonel Syster said he was pleased that he could meet with the residents as the provincial police had launched an online survey at charge offices to gauge public satisfaction. The public can use a QR code to complete the survey.
Mr Baartman told Colonel Syster that his home had been vandalised at the end of January by men who had thrown rocks at his neighbour, the manager of a spaza shop next to Mr Baartman’s house. The shopowner told Sentinel News that he was still living in fear because the men were trying to extort money from him.
Mr Baartman said he and the shopowner had reported the attack to the police, but no one had come out to investigate. According to Mr Baartman, he and the shopowner had gone to the police station five or six times with two witnesses and additional information, but each time, the officer who was supposedly dealing with the case was absent.
This continued inaction had led him to lodge the complaint with the police ombudsman, said Mr Baartman.
A woman said people in Hangberg feared for their lives because gangsters from other areas were coming into the area.
“It’s dangerous when they start shooting as there are children running around. When we call the police, they don’t come,” she said, asking for more visible policing.
Another woman complained about a dispute with a neighbour whom she claimed had attacked her husband in the presence of Hout Bay police officers who had come out after she and her husband had reported the man for disturbing the peace. Her husband had needed 11 stitches to his leg after falling on a piece of metal sheeting during the scuffle, but the officers had failed to arrest the neighbour who now continued to harass the couple by playing loud music, spraying water on their visitors and drilling and hammering in the early mornings and at weekends.
She said they had reported the neighbour’s transgressions but had had no response from the police or City Law Enforcement.
Law Enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason said they had gone out to the property, but officers had to “witness the particular transgression in order to act” and then they could only issue a fine because anything beyond that was a matter for the courts, he said.
Others in the meeting complained that police officers did not come out to interview complainants but instead expected them to visit the police station, sometimes with their witnesses.
Mr Baartman said many residents were not working, and if they had to pay the witnesses to go to the police, it became very expensive.
Colonel Syster said a police officer should visit the scene of a crime on the same day that it had been reported, take prints and start the investigation.
Another woman complained that there appeared to be no one at the station who could speak to victims of rape and domestic violence in Afrikaans, and she asked whether the station’s trauma room was being used because no-one was referred to it.
Colonel Syster responded that English was the country’s first language, and he added that the trauma room was being used and the station kept statistics on those using it.
Anthony Chemaly, who will be stepping down as chairman of the Hout Bay Community Police Forum, attended part of the meeting. He said the station had had about 78 officers eight years ago – based on an inaccurate census that had not accounted for everyone living in Imizamo Yethu. It now had 53 officers, which meant it was very under-resourced.
Mr Chemaly said he wanted the next CPF chair and board to be from Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg as those were the communities that were hardest hit by policing shortages.
Colonel Syster said he had attended a provincial policing strategy seminar in George where he had learnt that the station would get four student constables for field training for a year, but only one would stay at Hout Bay after the training.
The police ombudsman did not respond to questions sent on Friday and again on Monday and Tuesday. No-one answered the phone when we called the office..