Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our Community is a Priority

- Linda Jaquet -

"As a policeman, I feel proud when the community my team and I serve are satisfied, residents feel safe and crime is down. Then I know we are doing our job and are all interacting well with each other.” Your reporter was impressed by this frank response to the Friend’s question to Captain David Claassen, the new Station Commander at Prince Albert’s Police Station.

These were not just pretty words rehearsed for a news interview. A businesslike determination to work closely was a common thread during the Friend’s open conversation with Captain Claassen. In fact, in the next few months, he plans to hold an Imbizo together with the Municipality and residents so that all can get to know each other, express their concerns and learn more about the local police and their priorities. He also plans to encourage the community to join the police reservists and to set up a neighbourhood watch system.

Promoted to Station Commander in May this year, Captain Claassen has been in Prince Albert since 2006 when he was appointed Head of Visible Policing. Prior to that, he was attached to the SAPS in Dysselsdorp for ten years and in Cape Town for five years after completing his training.
He agrees that policing is a tough profession in South Africa and that the adaptation from a semi-military organisation to a more people-oriented one after 1996 was not particularly easy.

However, he says, that it was good for him, that it changed his perspectives and that he now enjoys the greater emphasis on having people skills recognised and on building community relations. He noted that criminals today use sophisticated technology that keeps improving and changing which means that the police too need ongoing training and upgrading of their skills.

The Prince Albert Police Station’s responsibilities cover a large area, extending from the town of Prince Albert and its surrounding rural areas to Prince Albert Road, and to Klaarstroom and surrounding rural areas.

To do the job, Captain Claassen has 36 police and clerical staff to look after this area. He recognised that the socio-economic problems are a very real in the region and impact on the nature and levels of crime. “The police can’t fight crime alone,” he said, “and especially because we are a tourist attraction and it’s important that visitors know that they are safe.”

Claassen appealed to the community to be proactive and to inform the police if their houses would be standing empty for any length of time. In fact, any activities or behaviour that gave an uneasy feeling should be reported. At the same time, he said that Prince Alberters should continue to be as friendly and generous as always.

Residents can contact either Inspector Hannes van der Westhuizen, responsible for Visible Policing, or the Station’s Charge Office, on 023 541 8000.

Asked about what he does for rest and recreation, Captain Claassen chuckled and remarked that a station commander, particularly in a rural area, didn’t have much time for himself.

However, his favourite pastime is spending time with his family in Dysselsdorp. His wife, Katherine, nurses at the Klein-Karoo Medi-Clinic in Oudtshoorn and their three children, a daughter and two sons, study there too.

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