Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi says that provincial authorities are accelerating their fight against crime in the province, and is promising high-tech solutions to gain the upper-hand on criminals – including new registration plates for vehicles in the province.
Delivering his first State of the Province Address after taking over the premiership of the province in 2022, Lesufi acknowledged that crime rates were rising the province, and that urgent action needed to be taken.
Crime data published by the South African Police Service (SAPS) last week revealed growing rates of violent crime and hijackings in the country. Given that Gauteng is the smallest province with the highest population – around 16 million people – many of the worst crimes are heavily concentrated in the region.
To tackle the growing crisis, he announced a slew of measures to be implemented in the coming year and beyond, including adopting new technologies and partnering with the private sector, while also boosting training and support for provincial police.
One of the key measures he announced was the rollout of panic buttons or e-buttons, which would allow citizens to report crime. These buttons would be linked to police services, he said, and would be managed through an integrated command centre.
“Every citizen, every time they feel threatened, will push the button, and this will alert authorities,” he said.
Police services will also be boosted with new equipment, with the premier saying that two new helicopters have been procured for the coming financial year, and four more will be procured in the years ahead.
400 new patrol cars will also be added, all equipped “with gadgets”, he said.
The police services will also lean into drone technology, with the province in the advanced stages of procuring 180 drones. These drones will be able to infiltrate areas that are high risk and too difficult for police officers to enter. The will also be high-tech, he said, capable of capturing the direction of a bullet and where it came from, supporting investigations.
On the personnel side, Lesufi said that 6,000 young people are being recruited and trained as patrolmen, who will be employed full-time to support policing.
The province will also be working with private security, he said, where companies have committed 10,000 people to be combined with provincial police forces. The private security sector has committed further resources to fighting crime.
In addition to these measures, the premier said that legislation also need to be addressed on three main fronts:
- The Registration of cars – which are a common denominator in crime, either stolen or used as a getaway vehicle.
- Eliminating illegal guns.
- Migrating away from cash in business transactions and becoming a cashless province.
Lesufi said that the province’s registration plates for cars is running out of numeric and alphebetic combinations, and the province is using this as an opportunity to overhaul the system.
The province has gazetted its intention to publish draft regulations related to this, where it will detail the “introduction of security features to improve the credibility of a number plate and enable easy tracking of a number plate within the value chain”.
The plan is to track registration from manufacturer to end user, while also enhancing other security features of the plates.
Lesufi said that the plates will be tamper-proof and difficult to clone. He also wants to work with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to develop a database of all vehicles in the region, so they can be tracked across borders, keeping tabs on cars coming into and leaving South Africa.
He also noted that traffic police have been given a mandate to clamp down on vehicles driving without number plates.