Domestic violence – along with ageing police vehicles and detectives’ high case loads – makes Lansdowne police officers’ jobs extra tough because it fuels other crime.
This is according to Lansdowne Community Police Forum’s (CPF’s) chairman Rafique Foflonker.
Speaking at the forum’s annual general meeting on Wednesday March 7, Mr Foflonker said the overall crime rate in the precinct had dropped steadily but domestic violence remained a “huge problem” and often victims were paralysed by fear.
“Very often, the victim is dependent on their partner. To get out, one needs a place to stay, and sometimes the family do not give the victim any support.
“Sometimes protection orders are issued, but the victim cannot survive on their own, and tolerate the abuse because they are afraid of what is on the other side. This often also leads to economic abuse.
“Even in affluent areas there is a high exposure rate to domestic abuse, because the more you have, the more debt you have.
“SAPS takes domestic violence seriously. We need to encourage people to seek help, and we need community-oriented policing to turn the tide.”
“We must make sure we live the Batho Pele (a Sotho phrase which means “People First”) principles and understand the Victim Charter at station level to prevent secondary victimisation,” Mr Foflonker said.
Another challenge for SAPS, was the lack of trust officers got from the community, but a simple act of changing the way officers engaged with the community could make all the difference, Mr Foflonker said.
“Very few people come to the police station feeling good. It is the only institution you can go to, to report a crime. You are already burdened and stressed, and now you find an officer giving you slack. Then you go home and feel more despondent – and this could even lead to violence.
“As the CPF, we do not interfere with the work of SAPS, but I spent a lot of time at the station, and show members that there is a better way to deal with the community. A simple act, like a calm approach and a greeting with a smile makes a difference.
“Officers suffer from compassion fatigue – where people perceive you to be disconnected from your problem. Communication is key. The CPF can fill this gap, by using a non-conventional approach to a problem.”
Despite the challenges, he believes community is well served by SAPS and active neighbourhood watches in the area.
Mitchell’s Plain acting cluster commander Brigadier Mmagauta Letsoalo, said the Lansdowne CPF’s concerns “are getting attention from my office”. One of the concerns reported to Brigadier Letsoalo’s office, is that the current building is not suitable to be used as a police station. “The community is lucky to have a chairperson like Rafique. He is concerned about the community’s well-being,” she said.
Colonel Shawn van Wyk, who took over as Lansdowne SAPS station commander on Thursday March 1, said one of the first things he noticed when he started there was how involved the CPF was at the police station. “The chairperson also always makes himself available. When I started here, he was the one who welcomed me, and I know something good will happen for this community,” Colonel Van Wyk said.
He said crime levels could drop further if the community, SAPS, the CPF, neighbourhood watches and security companies worked together.