Flying Squad’s wheels come off
Members say they have had only two cars available for past two weeks – while 12 are required
The Port Elizabeth Flying Squad has been operating with just two cars on the road to respond to serious and violent crimes across the Bay – a fraction of the number it needs, it was revealed on Tuesday.
The vehicle shortage has been dragging on for years, with some cars having more than 260,000km on the clock.
By late on Tuesday afternoon, after questions about the fleet were raised, another BMW – which had just returned from a service – was on the road.
But officials at the unit have revealed that yet again the wheels have come off, with eight police officials having had to share two operational cars over the past fortnight.
Two weeks ago, the country’s annual crime statistics revealed that Nelson Mandela Bay had rampant violent crime levels, with two people murdered, three raped and four robbed every day.
The unit, one of the most important divisions with its fleet mostly used for highspeed chases during hijackings and robberies, should have a fleet of 12 cars.
However, it emerged that four cars were scrapped earlier this year and another four are in the garage for repair work.
One was given to the Accident Response Unit to attend to crash scenes, and the only other two operational vehicles are a BMW and a Toyota Corolla.
Earlier this year, the unit was forced to give a new VW Golf TDI to the Mount Road Operational Command Centre Highway Patrol Unit – leaving it short of another vehicle.
The Corolla – which is not branded and has no lights or sirens – is the shift commander’s car and should be used to attend crime scenes and assist with backup. “For the past two weeks there have only been two cars,” one official said.
“These cars are shared between the shift workers.
“We have not had a highperformance car for years.
“We keep getting diesel BMWs and Golfs. It is basically impossible to chase down cash-in-transit robbers or hijackers in one of these cars.”
Another member said the unit had been promised cars years ago, but each time the new cars arrived at the provincial head office, they were allocated to other units.
Despite this, in August the Port Elizabeth Flying Squad won Best Performing Unit in the province for 2018.
“We proved that even having minimum resources, we could make a difference,” one member said.
“At that stage everyone thought we would be getting more cars because the logic was that if the generals could see what is done with minimum resources, they would give us more resources to do the job even better.”
In July, the Mdantsane Flying Squad was faced with a similar problem but its unit was completely grounded with not a single functional vehicle.
In a breakdown of the Bay’s crimes figures, 660 people were murdered in the 2017/2018 period – almost two murders a day. There were also almost three reported rapes a day – totaling 1,049.
Of the 1,565 robberies, 874 were house robberies in which people were attacked inside their homes and 691 were business robberies.
There were 628 hijackings reported in the Bay, with Kwazakhele, New Brighton and KwaDwesi the hotspots.
Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Sibongile Soci said it remains a challenge to ensure that the fleet operates at full capacity 24 hours a day.
“The unforeseen burden of motor vehicle accidents, mechanical failures, turnaround time of garages, and the sometimes lack of attentive use of vehicles by our members, must be taken into consideration.
“It must be kept in mind that our vehicle fleet runs 24 hours non-stop, every day . . . a crucial factor in understanding the dynamics in the maintenance of our fleet,” she said.
“Continuous efforts are made to ensure a faster turnaround time for vehicles booked into garages.
“The police can confirm that the unit has three vehicles active and one vehicle will be released from the garage tomorrow [Wednesday].”
Soci said the accident response team had been allocated a double-cab bakkie which would be made available as soon as licensing was finalised.
In late 2016 it emerged that the Port Elizabeth police garage had more administration staff than mechanics – leading to a backlog in repairs.
This came to light when parliamentary police portfolio committee members visited police facilities in the metro.