Johannesburg - The City of Johannesburg law enforcement department plans to increase the number of roadblocks it sets up, and will kick off the intensified programme with brand-new roadblock equipment.
Speaking at the launch of the department's latest acquisitions, six new trailers specifically geared to help with roadblocks; chief of police Chris Ncgobo said the public should get ready to see more metro police on the roads.
"The trailers have become necessary because of the many roadblocks the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department [JMPD] carries out, and there is more to come."
They were unveiled at the JMPD headquarters in Martindale on Monday, and will be deployed immediately as all municipal police officers have been trained to use them, according to the City of Johannesburg's website www.joburg.org.za.
Equipped with flashing blue lights and all the necessary safety measures, the JMPD-branded trailers will boost visibility and will, therefore, be safer for motorists approaching roadblocks.
Each trailer also has a generator to run electronic equipment such as laptop computers and blood-alcohol testing machines.
The new equipment would put more power in the JMPD's law enforcement punch as the trailers allowed roadblocks to be "roving", added Gerrie Gerneke, the director for licensing, courts and prosecution.
The metro police can hold a maximum of 88 roadblocks at the same time, and a serious Mr Ngcobo confirmed: "We will be doing this [maximum] every Friday and month end."
The JMPD already has four busses that are used at roadblocks; and the new trailers are miniature versions of these busses.
Another bus was recently bought for R2.2-million; the department will receive this state-of-the-art equipment in two weeks' time.
There is more bad news in the pipeline for those in the habit of driving under the influence.
The JMPD is holding discussions with the Public Prosecutor to allow the Drager Machine to be used as valid evidence in court.
The machine gives an immediate blood-alcohol reading of a person, and issues three receipts showing the level of inebriation.
One receipt is given to the person being charged; the police keep one; and the final slip is placed in the court file.
Metro police has a very poor conviction rate regarding drunken driving because of the current system of testing blood samples in a laboratory. "Laboratory testing is a big challenge for us, with results taking up to six months."
The roving roadblocks would also assist greatly with the catching of criminals and in finding illegal firearms, which were a growing problem in Johannesburg, Mr Ngcobo said.
The department has also increased the number of officers assigned specifically to crime prevention to assist the South African Police Service.
"We ask that the community to bear with us. It is for a good, specific purpose that we have roadblocks. Criminals travel at all times of the day," said JMPD spokesperson, Wayne Minnaar.
In the period from July 2007 to April 2008, metro police held 247 roadblocks, a huge increase on the 87 it held in the previous period.
In May this year the department received a Service Excellence Award from the Road Traffic Management Corporation for reducing road fatalities, particularly during the festive season and Easter weekend.
According to Mr Minnaar, the number of roadblocks had a direct effect on the number of road fatalities.