Recently, the City of Cape Town has injected an additional R2-million into ensuring that by-law offenders have their day in court.
Each quarter, thousands of notices are issued for transgressions of the administrator’s by-laws, and range from illegal dumping to traffic violations and illegal trading.
When a Section 56 notice is issued, the accused can either pay an admission of guilt fee or appear in court to plead their case. A Section 56 notice is handed to an accused when an offense is witnessed by a police officer.
In the case that the accused fails to appear, a warrant is issued by the municipal courts, and is then carried out by law enforcement authorities.
“Currently, the department’s area-based staff are tasked with warrant executions on behalf of the court section, which takes time away from their primary duties. With the R2 million budget injection, the City will bulk up the resources in the court section to allow them to execute warrants themselves,” the City said on Monday.
The City also added that it would consider other ways of improving its systems to confirm the identities of suspects apprehend for by-law transgressions.
“You can’t arrest an individual for a by-law transgression so, when issuing the fine, officers have very little means to confirm whether the details they’re given are correct,” said the City’s Mayco member for safety and security, Alderman JP Smith.
“That then becomes a challenge when we reach warrant stage in a case and we can’t find the accused, because the particulars provided were false. So, we’re starting to look at using smart technology to assist us. This includes taking photographs of the accused, checking address details via Google Maps and so forth,” he added.
The three by-laws that result in the highest number of Section 56 notices include:
– Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise Nuisances;
– Informal Trading by-laws.
These three by-laws accounted for three quarters of all notices issued in the first quarter of 2018.
“Fortunately, all is not lost, particularly in cases of illegal dumping where we are able to check details using a vehicle’s licence plate,” he said. “Also, traffic by-law offences and those that happen at a fixed address, like flouting building regulations and noise and other nuisances are also far easier to monitor and track the accused, in the event that they do not abide by the Section 56 notice.”
He also added that the public places by-law is the most challenging, as it covers offenses like unbecoming conduct in public.
“It is frustrating and we are working very hard to see if there is any way to address this challenge,” Smith said.