Safe World Cup not a matter of chance: police

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The FIFA soccer World Cup ended Sunday with out major security incident and the police say this did not happen by chance but was the result of several years of planning and training. On the busiest day, about 50 000 security personnel – police, military, traffic officers, disaster management staff and others – were on duty.

Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa says his service dedicated 44 000 police officials to secure the soccer spectacular. “Ultimately we also took over the inner-perimeter security duties in five of the ten … stadiums – in Port Elizabeth, Durban, Western Cape and Gauteng (Soccer City and Ellis Park).” The police deployed inside the stadiums were mostly made up of student constables from our police training institutions and they performed admirably on very short notice,” Mthethwa said. “They were more than adequately trained and worked at all times under the supervision of their commanders and other experienced police members.
“As an example of the integrated and coordinated manner in which deployments were made on match days, on one of our busiest days, 48 670 personnel members were on duty in and around the stadiums and in various operational centres. This was on June 23 when four matches were being played, in Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Nelspruit.” The minister noted the security umbrella included members of the military, police, metro police, disaster management, Department of Transport and the intelligence agencies “to name but a few of the 29 government departments, parastatals and other organisations working in cooperation with the police.”
“Each of the 32 playing teams was allocated a Team Security Liaison Officer (TSLO) and Close Protection officers (CPO). These members were hand-picked from the police’s Special Task Force and National Intervention Unit and met up with the teams as they entered the country, stayed embedded with the teams throughout their stay in our country and saw them off at the airport as they departed. Each TSLO and CPO received additional and intensive tailor-made training in securing motorcades, transportation routes and major venues, as well as in counter-intelligence, diplomatic protocol and close protection.
“Not a single incident occurred to any team while under the care of this group of highly trained and skilled police members. Several teams reported that the security provided to them was of the highest quality they had experienced during their sporting careers,” Mthethwa said.
“Members of these elite police units, supported by the Special Forces of the SANDF, were also on standby throughout the tournament to rapidly deploy anywhere in the country in order to enhance the general security concept and to counter any possible threat or emergency. It was never necessary to call upon their services in a reactive capacity. They were deployed on several occasions however to conduct surveillance duties and to proactively pre-identify possible threats and dangers.
“The South African Police Service is also proud to have initiated a world-first ‘International Police Cooperation Centre’ (IPCC). The IPCC was established at the Burgers Park Hotel in Pretoria. A fully operational centre was set up which was host to almost 200 Foreign Police Officers from 27 of the other playing countries.
“These foreign police officers assisted the SAPS at the stadiums during matches in which their country’s team participated as well as at the Centre. They performed support duties outside the stadiums in their uniforms and inside the stadiums in plain clothes. Their support was invaluable in dealing with potential threats such as hooliganism as well as with overcoming language and cultural barriers.

The IPCC also consisted of senior officials from the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO) who were responsible for coordinating information among our neighbouring countries, especially movement of soccer fans across our common borders and the coordination of cross-border crime combating operations, the minister said.

An Interpol Major Events Support Team was also represented in the IPCC and assisted the police with international security support. “A great deal of interest has been shown in the general crime situation in the country during the World Cup, with various security companies and researchers indicating a major decrease in crime levels. What is the most important factor to the Department of Police in this regard is that, across the board, members of our communities and our visitors have repeatedly indicated that they felt safe as they moved about our country at all hours of day and night. Some reports stated that crime had fallen aa much as 60% from the norm.
“At this early stage we have specifically looked at crime levels during the tournament within a 1.5 km radius of certain venues. Within the 1.5 km radius around the various stadiums on the 25 match days (outside the stadium), 704 crime-related incidents were reported to the police. During those 25 match days, 3 082 514 people attended the matches. This means that 0,02% of attendees were affected by crime-related incidents, by far the majority being minor crimes such as theft.
“On these match days, 290 incidents were reported to the police inside the stadium. Taking the total attendance of 3 082 514 on these days, the attendees that were affected by crime-related incidents represents 0,009% of the fans. If we look at the Fan Fests, there were a total of 1 271 500 fans at the Fan Fests on match days. In the 1.5 km radius around the venues, 1712 incidents were reported to the police. This represents a 0,13% chance of being a victim of a crime-related incident. Inside the various Fan Fests 76 incidents were reported to police representing 0,005% of those in attendance.
“We must agree that these figures are very heartening and reflect exceptionally well on the security forces and the people of South Africa. The figures above are ‘incidents’ reported to the police, not all necessarily resulting in a case docket being opened. The number of case dockets opened and being investigated by dedicated police detectives countrywide amounts to 1002. Of these 558 cases have been finalised, 357 are still under investigation and there have been 447 arrests made. Of those arrested, 266 were South African citizens and 181 were foreign nationals. Some cases were closed as undetected.
“In terms of [FIFA] Rights Protection cases, that is ticketing and counterfeit goods-related cases, a staggering amount of R45.8 million of goods were seized. This figure can still increase as investigations continue. During investigations 78 case dockets were opened and 106 persons were arrested. Most cases (50) were opened in Gauteng, with 11 in the Eastern Cape and a few in most of the other provinces, Mthethwa noted.
“The South African Police Service is most appreciative of the support of the SANDF, the other law enforcement agencies, other government departments which played a pivotal role and other role players integral to the success of securing this major event and placing South Africa firmly on the tourist-destination list.
“At the National Joint Operational Centre (NATJOC) from where all security-related activities were coordinated, personnel from 22 departments worked 24 hours on 12 hour shifts. They worked in a coordinated and cooperative manner and firm friendships and networks were formed that will carry us into the future. This structure was duplicated in each province and at various major venues.
“We are determined to take the best practices and lessons learned forward to safeguard our citizens and visitors in the future. An intensive debriefing session will follow and a report will be presented to Cabinet for their consideration and further implementation. Thank you South Africa, for proving to the world that we are the best and that we will be a tough act to follow,” Mthethwa said.

National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele separably lauded his officers for their sterling performance during a live Police Television programme broadcast to all stations. Cele displayed commendation certificates from various institutions “that were highly impressed by the performance of the police during the tournament,” his spokeswoman Major General Nonkululeko Mbatha said in a statement.
“The overall success of the tournament in terms of policing was attributed to all members of the South African Police Service who braved the cold winter in ensuring that the country delivers a safe and secure tournament. In his interaction with the members, General Cele indicated the importance of maintaining the high standard of policing displayed during the soccer spectacle,” Mbatha added.

She added the police leadership “will spare no effort in making sure that members receive relevant training in different areas of operation. The refining of the recruitment and retention strategies, resourcing and training of members remains high on the priority list of the National Commissioner who also cited the need to seriously improve the working conditions of members with the view of ensuring that service delivery is not compromised.”

On Wednesday Cele promised not to let crime levels return to pre-World Cup levels. “…it is their right to be safe,” Cele said. “Let me say, it [policing] cannot be on the same scale as it was happening in the months of June, July, but definitely it [crime] can’t go back to beyond or at the same level as it was happening before the World Cup.”



Pic: A police tactical response team deploys on the apron at OR tambo International Airport during the World Cup