The emergency warning blue lights fitted to registered police vehicles will be on from dusk to dawn as part of a national effort to heighten law enforcement visibility.
The initiative, dubbed “Country in Blue”, was launched by Police Minister Bheki Cele and National Commissioner General Khehla Sithole in KwaZulu-Natal’s Inanda policing precinct at the weekend. Provincial police commissioners were also present for the launch in, according to a SA Police Service (SAPS) statement, “an area which over the years recorded high rates of contact crimes such as sexual offences and murder”.
“The ‘Country in Blue’ strategy espouses an integrated and collaborative approach, working closely with all security forces, civil society and government agencies. The concept will see all operational SAPS vehicles on the road have emergency warning blue lights on from sunset to sunrise (18h00 to 06h00). Additional operational vehicles will be marked in a bid to ensure the police presence is enhanced. The concept aims to deter all forms of criminality and is embedded in the Community Policing Strategy which mobilises more community patrollers to work closely with SAPS as force multipliers,” the statement said.
The initiative’s theme is “extending our reach through blue light visibility” and SAPS management sees the overall goal being “to prevent and combat a host of crimes including all 17 community reported crimes; gender-based violence and femicide; aggravated robberies such as carjacking, business and residential robberies commonly known as trio crimes as well as tracing wanted suspects and the proliferation of firearms”.
SAPS will, according to the national commissioner, add unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to its inventory of crime fighting equipment.
“Because we want to be everywhere all the time, we are going to introduce drone policing in certain areas to ensure we are visible. This is a bid to normalise and stabilise problematic areas or hot spots such as Inanda. Our slogan is ‘squeezing the space for criminals through a declaration of a psychological war, being everywhere all the time’,” the statement has Sithole saying.
Crime spiked in South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic and record unemployment. In August, quarterly crime statistics reflecting double-digit increases in crimes between April and end of June this year.
The statistics reflect increases across different crime categories, including a 60% increase in contact crimes such as murder, attempted murder, sexual offences and all categories of assault compared to the same period last year. There were 5 760 murders during the first quarter – an increase of 66%. There was a 72% increase in reported rape cases with 10 006 victims coming to the fore. A 92% increase in the trio crimes house robberies, business robberies and hijackings was recorded while there was a 35% increase in other serious crimes like commercial, shoplifting and theft.