Cops cracking under load

With crime constantly on the increase and a shortage of resources, Pietermaritzburg detectives are having a tough time handling their workload, with some carrying up to 400 dockets instead of the standard 30 a month.

Police detectives are supposed to receive 25 to 30 new dockets a month, however, in places such as Mountain Rise and Plessislaer, some detectives are handling quadruple their workload, working on up to 120 dockets which include cases such as theft, robbery, murder and motor vehicle accidents.

A Pietermaritzburg detective who could not be named as he is not authorised to speak to the press said that he had recently learned that some detectives in the province are carrying up to 400 dockets.

“Some detectives are handling between 300 and 400 dockets per person. It is absolutely impossible to cope with,” he said. “The serious and violent crimes detectives are struggling the most,” said the officer.

“What happens is detectives are taken for special operations and their dockets are handed to the remaining detectives and it all adds up.

“There is a big need for more detectives especially in Plessislaer and Mountain Rise.”

Another detective, who may not be named, said he was dealing with an average of 120 dockets a month, saying he used to only receive around 30.

“120 dockets for one member is a lot of work,” said the detective.

“It is difficult. We work long hours and do not get overtime. There are just not enough of us,” he said.

A police officer, who wished to remain anonymous, said when he or another member finished filing a report on an incident, they wait months for the detectives to collect them.

The officer said he had reports stacked up in his office from around three months ago.

“The work is piling up and the detective department is not getting any new members because they know they will have to do triple the work they are mandated to do.”

The officer said another issue was having inexperienced detectives. “An officer should have at least 10 years’ experience in the field before they can even train to become a detective.

“There have been so many reports with solid information that would make a good prosecution in court but I haven’t been called to testify in court in over five months.

“This means that the reports are not going to court or are not being enrolled. And we open cases every single day.”

The officer said he knew of one police station in Pietermaritzburg that once had around 15 detectives but which now has only seven, but this could not be confirmed at the time of going to print on Sunday.

Another police officer, who would not be named, said that if there were enough detectives and they “all did their work properly there would be far less crime in the city”.

Independent policing expert and former Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Dr Johan Burger said a study had found that corruption within the police was fuelling crime in the country.

“Very often the prosecution will not materialise or [be] enrolled at court because of poor investigations.

“Magistrates have also complained about poorly written statements that are almost impossible to read.”

He said inexperienced detectives were also an issue, adding that seasoned detectives, under their branch commander, should help check dockets to make sure the right information and charges have been laid before they are submitted to court.

“Cases should be regularly inspected to ensure they are enrolled in court and have been filled out correctly."