The safety of Hillcrest residents is being compromised because the local police station has been without a commander for almost a year.
This is according to local councillors and the Hillcrest community police forum (CPF), who say that the lack of a station commander is leading to a loss of confidence in the police force and has left many officers demotivated.
DA councillor Peter Davis said: “The people of this area are being compromised. Crime statistics, generally, are going up. This is no longer a safe area to live in.”
In May last year, station commander Colonel Nathaniel Kweyama was removed from his post, without any official reason given. Despite interviews taking place towards the end of the year, the post is still vacant.
The duties are being shared between two officers who are also responsible for their own units.
In a letter to KwaZulu-Natal’s police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mamunye Ngobeni, the CPF wrote: “We are acutely cognisant of the fact that the lack of a commander-in-chief is leading to even more distrust of and diminishing confidence in the SAPS at our station.”
The letter, dated February 23, added that the complaint was not against the two officers sharing the duties, lieutenant-colonels Joseph and Luthuli. “(They) are doing their best under the circumstances, but having to run their own units as well as the station is an almost impossible task.”
According to ward councillor Rick Crouch, there was no formal response to the letter.
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker did not say whether the letter had been received by Ngobeni’s office or if any action had been taken as a result. He said that the process of appointing a new station commander had been completed “some time ago” at provincial level and was awaiting signature from national head office in Pretoria.
“We are confident that the process will be finalised shortly,” he said.
However, Crouch said residents were, meanwhile, negatively affected. “When people go to the police station, they don’t get the service they should be getting,” he said.
Resident Barry Edy described the Hillcrest police as “rudderless” since Kweyama’s removal. It was the second time, Edy said, that a competent station commander had been unexpectedly removed from the post.
“Who suffers as a result? The law-abiding citizens of Hillcrest, Molweni and the other areas covered by Hillcrest police. Maybe the residents need to organise a mass protest to voice their disapproval at the inability of the SAPS hierarchy to remedy the situation.”
Edy, who lives in Crestholme, said he and other residents had experienced multiple robberies and thefts, but, despite police being given the names of suspects, only one person was detained.
“Most of the thefts go unreported as a result of disinterested and unmotivated staff at Hillcrest. Something has to be done soon,” he said.
Davis said the length of time taken to appoint a full-time person was unacceptable.
“It raises the question of whether they have anyone qualified to take up the post,” he said.