Mitchell’s Plain police station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam has expressed concern over the high volumesnumber of assault cases reported at the station.
More concerning, he added, was that many of these cases were later withdrawn.
Brigadier Goolam said he had seen an increase in assault cases since August last year and attributed it to socio-economic issues and substance dependency. “We have also seen a rise in assault cases when residents fetch their South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA) grants. Due to poverty, many residents are scrambling for resources,” he said.
Last year’s crime statistics revealed that malicious damage to property was often related to domestic violence.
“Close to 50 percent of the assault cases are predominantly domestic violence. This is due to economic abuse and the patriarchial mindset still held by some men,” Brigadier Goolam explained.
Captain Ian Williams, spokesman for Mitchell’s Plain police station, said people were generally resorting to violence to deal with conflict and to settle disputes.
“Cases are withdrawn at a later stage, because the complainant doesn’t want to go to court or the matter has been settled in some other way between the parties.
“We view these assault cases in a very serious light and will now make it difficult for people to just, on a whim, withdraw cases. All cases that are withdrawn will be referred to the court where people will have to make representations as to why they don’t want to proceed with a case. We hope that this will help people make better judgements in resolving especially domestic disputes,” he said.
Brigadier Goolam said there was a perception that the increase in assault cases was related to liquor abuse, but “we have closed down many of the legal and illegal shebeens”.
Brigadier Goolam, who has been at the helm of the station since March 2015, said conflict between youth had also contributed to the surge.
“When pupils get into fights, either the parents or the schools open assault cases at the station without the proper mediation.
“Social media also exacerbates the issue as many of these cases tend to go viral.”
He attributed the anti-social behaviour exhibited by youth to the absence of parents. “Parents tend to be absent when they can be present, which leaves children to their own devices. There is also a perception among parents that teachers and the SAPS need to be disciplining their children, but it’s their responsibility.”
He listed Eastridge, Tafelsig East, Freedom Park and Beacon Valley as the areas in which assault cases were the highest.
“Many parents and community members feel as if they are under siege by their own children,” he said.
Last year’s crime statistics revealed that common assault cases in the province had increased from 39 150 cases in 2015 to 41 304 cases in 2016.
A cursory look at statistics reveals that 441 473 cases were reported at various policing precincts in the Western Cape between 2005 and 2016.
Mitchell’s Plain police station also had the most contact crimes, which includes common assault, with 2 079 cases reported (16.4 percent) of 12 681 reported crimes nationally.
Captain Williams said they regularly engaged with sector commanders in the various areas; visited repeat offenders; ran operations and provided support to victims of assault. “We also run imbizos and hand out pamphlets at the Promenade and the Town Centre.
“Residents needed to learn appropriate conflict management skills. For instance, when someone bumps into them, they don’t apologise or talk it out. It then results in a confrontation or eventually violence,” he said.
Captain Williams said another concern was the aggressive behaviour residents displayed towards the police.
“There have been instances where residents have thrown stones at our police vans when we are called to a scene.”
He said, a case of common assault had been opened at the station at the weekend after paramedics were attacked by residents while attending to a call at a house in Kanonkop Street, in Tafelsig, around 7.45pm, on Saturday March 25.
The patient and five other people (allegedly) got into the ambulance and chaos erupted after they accused the paramedics of not caring, and a fight broke out,” he said.
Brigadier Goolam said that from April 1 last year to Monday March 27 this year there had been a 3.3 percent increase in cases of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH) and a 4 percent decrease in common assault cases even though the numbers were still too high.
“Assaults run parallel to malicious damage to property cases. We need a multi-disciplinary approach to deal with this issue. We also urge the churches to get involved to ease the burden,” he said .
Mareldia Sonday chairwoman of the Mitchell’s Plain Network Opposing Abuse said the organisation had dealt with 3 000 trauma cases over the past twelve year. “We found that 1 000 of them were common assault due to domestic violence. They involved mostly women abused by their husband, partner, boyfriend or former partner.”
Ms Sonday said 80 percent of women came forward to lay charges as opposed to the 20 percent of men who came forward.
“The men who come forward are usually very broken and severely emotionally, physically, verbally and economically abused.
“We offer victims crisis counselling; refer them to the police or encourage them to seek a protection order or harassment form.
“We empower the client to become self-reliant and to make informed decisions.
“We believe that on-going awareness is important because a lot of people are not aware of their rights.
“Recently we had our annual human rights event to bring awareness to the broader community.”
Abie Isaacs, chairman of the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum (CPF), said the CPF had noted with concern the spike in certain crimes in the policing precinct.
“We urge residents to report crimes and we condemn any acts of violence.”
Avoid getting into a fight
● Slowly count to 10 and breathe deeply.
● Sit down. It’s more difficult to shout when you are sitting.
● Explain the emotion you are feeling as opposed to being reactive to a tense situation.
● Remove yourself from the situation.
● Decrease excessive drinking.
● Control your anger, don’t let the anger control you.