Army to help fight crime, says minister

The army could be brought in to help the police fight crime, Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa said in an interview with the Sunday Independent.

“We are at war with criminals,” he was quoted as saying.

The army could escort cash-in-transit vans and patrol the country’s borders.

“If you look at other countries, the issue of transporting money is a joint operation between security forces.

“You may want to release the police from things like cash-in-transit [heists] and concentrate where it matters most. If we need to review, then it must be reviewed.”

Mthethwa told the Sunday paper that trained soldiers that were part of the reserve force could serve this purpose.

The effectiveness of visible policing would be undermined by sending police officers to patrol borders.

“If you look at international trends, the job of securing the country is done by the army ... You need police visibility, that unit needs to be strengthened.”

Mthethwa also said there was a “standing order” to recruit at least 10 000 police officers a year.

Improving crime intelligence was also key.

“We have put before Parliament a Bill on forensics, because when we reviewed and assessed the criminal justice system, we found the weak link to be the area of detectives.
We have started a specialised programme to retrain detectives in forensics.

“If we are to crack crime, we must be very strong on crime intelligence. This is the beginning of the value chain of the criminal justice system.

“If [criminals] know that you are very weak and can’t manage crime scenes, that encourages [them to] get away with murder.

“We want to be tough but smart.”

Mthethwa said police needed to be more aggressive in defending themselves.

“We don’t want some hesitation from the police [as] 117 policemen died last year because they hesitated ... to defend themselves as they feared the media and some human rights practitioners.

“This year alone in KwaZulu-Natal, already nine police have died.”

Mthethwa also called for CCTV cameras to be installed in townships.

“We want this thing not only in big cities, but also where our communities are where crime is happening ... That’s why we will be visiting the [Treasury] for help.

“Without improving and enhancing our capacity technology, we are nowhere.”

Mthethwa also said a successor to suspended national police commissioner Jackie Selebi—whose contract expires at the end of June—would be named soon.

“There is even more urgency, even in the highest office to ensure that this happens as soon as possible. We will be having a new commissioner; we are not talking about months.”

On Thursday the head of the new directorate of Priority Crime Investigation—the replacement of the Scorpions—would be named. The new unit’s members were currently being vetted by the National Intelligence Agency.

“The vetting is happening. The team is getting ready. It’s going to be an 800-strong force. Currently about 300 have already been vetted,” he told the newspaper.—Sapa

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