Rail Enforcement Unit nailed 238 suspects, recovered R400 000 in stolen copper cable, metal in first year
Since its inception on 27 October 2018, the REU has acted as a force multiplier for PRASA’s regional Protection Services Unit. Together, the teams have ensured greater operational visibility on trains and at stations, searching more individuals during joint operations, and confiscating a greater number of dangerous weapons and fraudulent train tickets.
The REU consists of 100 Law Enforcement Officers who have been trained by the City as peace officers to work together with PRASA’s security to focus on the safety and security of Metrorail commuters and infrastructure.
Jointly funded by the City, the Western Cape Government, and PRASA, approximately R47,9 million was set aside to establish and operate the unit which is now in its second year of operation.
Apart from being deployed on rail lines to assist with crime prevention, the Law Enforcement Officers are also supporting the South African Police Service to identify those involved in the illicit metals theft industry and the closing down of the so-called ‘bucket shops’ – since October 2018 to 31 October 2019, the REU confiscated and recovered copper cable and metal to the value of R400 000.
The following successes were recorded by the unit for the period 27 October 2018 to 31 October 2019:
• 238 arrests on a range of charges including assault, armed robbery, possession of drugs and stolen property, malicious damage to property, and theft, including 55 in terms of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act
• 29 767 stop-and-searches conducted on trains, platforms and at stations across Cape Town
• 416 operations within the rail environment
• 2 225 m of copper cable impounded
• 865 kg of stolen metal impounded
• 2 471 inspections of hotspot areas and scrapyards
• confiscation of various dangerous weapons and equipment used for vandalising and stealing rail infrastructure, including hacksaws, spades, cutters, knives, screwdrivers, hammers, crowbars, blades and scissors
‘Of great importance is the number of charges filed in terms of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act. Up to 55 suspects were charged for damage to essential infrastructure during this time. The Act provides for stricter bail conditions and harsher sentences, including up to 30 years’ imprisonment for those caught and convicted of destruction of essential infrastructure. I firmly believe the REU has made an impact, but the harsh reality is that it will take time and more resources to deal with those who are vandalising and destroying our rail network while we are working hard to stabilise the service. Urban rail should be the backbone of public transport in Cape Town and commuters’ mode of choice because it is cheaper and more efficient than any road-based transport. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go and until such time, our road network will remain congested, and the cost of transport will remain high, and our local economy will be constrained because people and goods cannot move as efficiently as needed,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Alderman Felicity Purchase.
‘The Rail Enforcement Unit’s efforts require the support of the criminal justice system to expedite cases against suspects, particularly those accused of cable theft and vandalism of infrastructure. The perception remains that there are no consequences for these destructive acts, which is why they continue and why the rail service remains hamstrung. The assault on the service has had a massive impact on Cape Town, as we see daily on our roads, but also on the economy and we owe it to the public to do as much as possible to get things back on track,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.
The Memorandum of Agreement between the City, PRASA, and the Western Cape Government will terminate on 30 June 2020. The City and the Western Cape Government are eager to extend the pilot project and will liaise with PRASA about more funding and resources to keep the REU going for at least another year.
‘The members of the REU are valuable force multipliers to PRASA’s Protection Services and the Rapid Rail Police Unit in the fight against crime and metal theft. Commuter safety on trains and stations and eradicating the debilitating impact of metal theft on service industries must remain a key priority,’ said Metrorail Western Cape Acting Regional Manager, Raymond Maseko.
The stakeholders remain committed to working together in order to confront the scourge of vandalism, and theft and crime that have been afflicting Cape Town commuters and threatening the provision of a safe and reliable service.
‘I am delighted that we are making significant contributions to improving security on our rail transport. Capetonians require a safe reliable train service so that they can travel with peace of mind between home and work, and in search of new opportunities that exist across our city. To make this happen, we need to revisit the modus operandi of this unit so that it can be more effective in dealing with arson. Rail safety and the efficiency of the system remains a high priority,’ said the Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works, Bonginkosi Madikizela.
Residents are an integral component of the fight against attacks on the rail system and rewards of up to R25 000 are payable for information leading to successful convictions.