The air, abuzz with excitement and exuberant energy, greeted Overstrand Executive Mayor Dudley Coetzee and dignitaries on Friday, 18 June 2021 at the official launch of Overstrand Municipality’s recently established K9 Unit.
The Overstrand K9 unit is a specialised division of Law Enforcement Officers who use specially trained service dogs to perform various law enforcement tasks. This launch follows the recent establishment of two K9 units in the province, in the City of Cape Town and Swartland Municipality respectively.
The dignitaries were treated to a demonstration at Grotto Beach, simulating a typical day at work where DAFF, CapeNature, SAPS and Law Enforcement would encounter poachers. It was evident that it is not just about chasing and catching the bad guys, but also presenting sufficient evidence that would lead to successful prosecution.
In attendance were the Overberg District Mayor Sakkie Franken; Members of the Provincial Legislature, Reagen Allen and Mesuli Kama; Head of Department of Community Safety Advocate Yashina Pillay, Acting Chief Director of the Department of Community Safety, David Coetzee, Cluster Commander Donovan Heilbron; various councillors, as well as officials from Overstrand Municipality, CapeNature, local police stations and the Provincial Department of Community Safety.
Delivering a heart-warming opening address, and also making particular reference to Premier Alan Winde’s commitment to community safety as the No 1 priority in the Western Cape, Mayor Coetzee said that in his drive to make the province a safe place to live, Premier Winde decided that Municipal Law Enforcement divisions should be expanded to supplement the service provided by SAPS.
“It has been accepted that SAPS alone would not be able to ensure that communities are safe and that property is secure, nor are SAPS able to uphold and enforce the law because they are simply under-staffed and work long hours under difficult conditions,” he explained.
The Mayor further added that Overstrand Municipality is privileged to be one of the few municipalities selected to partner with the Department of Community Safety to attain the goal of making the Western Cape a safe place to live and visit.
The Department availed R8,2 million towards this programme: R4 million in the 2018/19 financial year, R2 million in 2019/20 and R2,2 million in 2020/21. The Department has also provided vehicles to assist with the transportation of the K9 units to the various areas within the region for the purposes of searching and detecting of narcotics, contraband, explosive devices, fire-arms and ammunition. This includes two VW Amarok double cab bakkies to the value of R1.36 million in total.
Mayor Coetzee thanked the Department for making funding available to enable the Municipality to establish a K9 unit, supporting the Overberg District Municipality’s safety plans. He explained that the Overstrand K9 unit will provide support to law enforcement operations and will be used for specialised operations such as sniffing abalone or drugs as well as assisting with foot patrols. “The six Belgian Malinois dogs that will be used in our K9 unit, and that you saw put through their paces earlier, are recognised as one of the most intelligent species in the world.”
He concluded by saying “As the Overstrand Municipality we are committed to continue to partner with the Western Cape Government to ensure that we combat crime in our communities to ensure that the Overstrand is a safe place for our residents to live, for tourists to visit and so contribute to the safety and security of the Western Cape”.
The Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, was not able to attend the opening ceremony. However, his keynote speech was delivered by Advocate Yashina Pillay as the HoD for the Department of Community Safety, and indicated that the deployment of the K9 unit forms part of the Provincial Safety Plan (PSP), which aims to halve the murder rate in the Province over the next ten years. The PSP rests on two legs, namely Violence Prevention and Law Enforcement, and this deployment forms part of the various initiatives in the latter of the two legs.
Minister Fritz further indicated in his speech “that the K9 unit was an initiative first conceived while Premier Winde was still Minister of the Department of Community Safety, and that it gave him immense pleasure to carry forward this exciting initiative and bring to fruition something that will increase safety for the citizens of the Overberg. We know that coastal towns are adversely affected by trade and transportation of illicit substances. This unit will go a long way in assisting law enforcement operations to track down perpetrators and improve the safety of residents in the Overberg.”
The K9 unit, both dogs and their handlers, have been trained to provide support in some of the following activities:
- Preventing the illegal transportation of narcotics, explosives and poaching of marine resources;
- Delivering crime prevention through an integrated multi-disciplinary model aimed at combatting and prevention of criminality;
- Ensuring compliance with the relevant legislation including the National Road Traffic Act, the Criminal Procedure Act, Drug and Drug Trafficking Act and Firearm Control Act;
- Increasing coverage through the deployment of K9 resources after hours; and
- Maintaining a high degree of visible policing by means of K9 patrols, deployment to identified areas, including key points and identified crime hot spots.