IN the wake of Stephne Evans’ murder, the Bathurst Community Policing Forum (CPF) drew a record attendance at a meeting last Thursday evening.
Although many residents expressed general complaints over an increase in burglaries in the area, it was the murder of Evans that was central to the newfound community solidarity over crime.
Several ideas were proposed, and technology was presented, on how to combat the crime scourge.
Bathurst CPF chairwoman Mary Riley chaired the meeting, which was attended by Port Alfred Cluster Commander Brigadier Morgan Govender, Bathurst station commander Captain Ernest Mhauli and a new detective who is on the Evans case.
[pullquote]The police said they do have some leads in the Evans case[/pullquote]
The police said they do have some leads in the Evans case, and samples were taken at the scene. One of the cellphones that were stolen from Evans and her partner Andre Malan has been recovered. It had blood on it and has been sent for analysis.
Govender said: “I don’t want to lie to you – DNA testing only came into effect from last year. We wish it was 10 years ago. It wasn’t. We went to all prisons in South Africa and took DNA samples of all prisoners. We also take swabs of all people arrested to add to the database.
[pullquote]It takes anything from three months to a year to two years for a DNA result to come back[/pullquote]
“It takes anything from three months to a year to two years for a DNA result to come back.”
The audience muttered with disappointment.
“Even blood samples for drunk driving would take a year to two years to come back for a case, when we sent it to Cape Town. Now we send it to KZN and it takes much quicker – four months,” Govender continued.
“Over the last two months I’ve been really concerned about crime here. It’s been increasing,” he said. “It’s not good to meet you under these circumstances. It was very heart sore to hear somebody this age had been brutally murdered.
“We need to work very closely with the community. Then criminals see the community and police are one, and they move on. Let’s not wait for something to happen. Let’s keep meeting regularly. The CPF should meet once a month,” Govender said.
It emerged that the Bathurst CPF last met in August last year.
[pullquote]Eighty parolees for various crimes have been released back into the cluster[/pullquote]
Govender shocked the audience by telling them he had only been alerted two months after the fact, that 80 parolees for various crimes had been released back into the cluster.
Of these, 20 are known to have committed crimes since they went on parole.
“They cannot adjust to community life so they commit crime again. In prison they have TV and three meals a day,” Govender said. “The court rolls are packed to capacity.”
“When parolees are released back into the community we need to keep watch on them,” he said.
Several members of the public suggested that the community should contribute to a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Evans’ murder.
Another member of the audience asked if it was possible for the SAPS to have two tracker dogs stationed at Bathurst to be able to pursue suspects in the bush around the village.
The police responded that although there were dogs at the K9 unit, tracker dogs were specially trained and they had none.
Another resident asked if it was possible for SAPS to ask the municipality to clear pervasive alien vegetation which criminals use to hide in.
Govender agreed that this and street lighting needed to be addressed, and that the municipality should also be part of the CPF.
He asked if any councillors or representatives of the municipality were present. None were.
Resident Shane Steenkamp said he would lead a campaign for a national referendum for the government to clarify the constitutional rights of people to be safe and secure in their own homes, when they encounter an intruder on their property.
“I don’t need to be stabbed, or my wife raped or murdered,” Steenkamp said.
“I’ll do it for Stephne and everyone else who’s been affected. I want to get five-million people to join this.”
CPF member Howard Butler said in the 10 months since the CPF last met, there had been 20 incidents, ranging from bicycle theft to the murder of Evans. December and January were busy periods for crime, and this month too.
Most successful break-ins occurred at houses where the alarm was not on, and there was an increase of break-ins during the day, he said.
[pullquote]There were an almost equal number of burglaries in Nolukhanyo as in Bathurst village.[/pullquote]
Captain Mhauli said most crimes in neighbouring Nolukhanyo were contact crimes like murder, rape, assault and robbery. There were an almost equal number of burglaries in Nolukhanyo as in Bathurst village.
There were also presentations on a base radio system for a community watch, an offer by resident Paul Gibson to start a neighbourhood watch, and representatives from the Port Alfred CPF suggested they work more closely with their Bathurst counterparts.