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“WE are squeezing the space for criminals to move,” national police chief General Bheki Cele said at the relaunch in Port Elizabeth yesterday of the specialist family violence and child protection unit which was disbanded five years ago.
The unit, closed down by disgraced former police commissioner Jackie Selebi, along with the Scorpions and narcotics unit, was also given 10 new vehicles.
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Cele said research had revealed the need for a specialist unit to deal with women-abuse cases.
“I am very confident about this unit. One thing I am, however, concerned about is if our prisons are going to be able to cope with all these offenders,” he said with a smile.
The launch is part of a national move to reintegrate the family violence, child protection and sexual offences unit into the police structure, and comes just a month after police statistics revealed a rise in rape around the country.
Sexual crimes in the Eastern Cape rose from 9047 between April 2009 and March last year to 9380 between April last year and March this year.
Figures issued by Port Elizabeth’s Thuthuzela Care Centre (formerly known as the Dora Nginza Rape Crisis Centre) show that between October last year and August this year more than 1377 rape cases were reported in the Port Elizabeth area alone.
Kwazakhele had the highest number of rapes with 209 cases, followed by New Brighton (185) and Bethelsdorp (183).
Referring to a Gauteng businesswoman’s brutal nine-hour rape ordeal at Kings Beach in December, Cele warned he would not tolerate another rape on the Port Elizabeth beachfront.
He appealed to the 500 police officers at the launch: “Make me a vow that this is not going to happen again in this city or in this metro.”
At the briefing in the Raymond Mhlaba Hall in Motherwell yesterday, Cele and Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu handed over the 10 new Ford Focus vehicles to the unit. “These vehicles are for the units in the three clusters of Nelson Mandela Bay,” Cele said, before getting into one of the vehicles and revving the engine.
“We as the police are here to protect. One of the real issues this unit will focus on is the abuse of women and children. I do not want to lose sight of this – the primary function is preventing the abuse of women and children.” The unit is mandated to investigate rape, child and women abuse, and certain domestic violence cases.
The Eastern Cape has 27 of the units with a total of 286 officers – the largest number of units in any of the provinces.
In all, 66 units, with a total of 1864 specialist detectives, will be launched nationally.
The number of rapes nationally rose from 55097 between April 2009 and March last year to 56272 from April last year to March this year. When the figures were issued, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the number of rapes remained unacceptably high, but crimes against women and children were a priority for the police.
Yesterday all the role-players, including the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Social Development Department and various non-governmental organisations, signed a memorandum of understanding and agreed to assist the newly established units wherever possible. The NPA said it would give the units 24-hour assistance to ensure that rapists and abusers were quickly arrested and successfully prosecuted.
National Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences commander Major-General Evon Botsheleng said investigators would place particular focus on all incidents of women and child abuse. Cele later also stressed the importance of the festive season roll-out plan.
“We are here to arrest criminals and talk less. Criminals must not come out of their houses – it is your job to hunt down the perpetrators and arrest them,” he yelled.
“When criminals sleep, the police badge must glitter in their dreams. When they brush their teeth, all they must hear is police, police, police. One thing we know is that criminals come on holiday to the coastal cities, so I am warning them to stay in their homes. We are squeezing the space for criminals to move.”
The units are already functioning in all the provinces, with the Eastern Cape chosen for the official relaunch yesterday.