Alcohol the key factor in reduced emergency calls, officials say
City of Cape Town statistics show a huge drop in fire and rescue calls during lockdown, with lack of alcohol the key reason.
The City of Cape Town’s Safety and Security Directorate has released statistics for the first 29 days of lockdown, the most dramatic of which are the huge reduction in incidents responded to by the Fire and Rescue Service.
City officials believe the limited availability of alcohol is a crucial factor, says Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, JP Smith. He notes: “Of the many lessons that we as a country can and will learn from the COVID-19 pandemic…will be our relationship with alcohol and its impact on our social fabric”.
Forty percent reduction in number of overall calls
A comparison of fire and rescue statistics during the lockdown period and the same period a year ago reveals:
- 40% reduction in the number of overall calls responded to (fire and special services like trauma incidents and motor vehicle accidents);
- 74% drop in the number of trauma calls;
- 60% drop in the number of medical calls;
- 48% drop in the number of formal residential fires responded to;
- 37% drop in the number of informal residential fires responded to.
“These lower statistics represent lives saved, even though it cannot be quantified,” Smith says. While he concedes that some trends can be attributed to the reduced movement of people, the city is fairly confident that the ban on alcohol has played a role.
Enforcement of lockdown regulations
Although fire and rescue calls have plummeted, the city’s metro police and law enforcement officials have been busy with the implementation of lockdown regulations.
“While the focus of lockdown interventions was initially on ensuring that persons remained confined to their homes, the focus has shifted in recent weeks,” Smith says.
“From a City perspective, we have noted an increase in the number of persons arrested for selling items prohibited in terms of the regulations – most notably alcohol and cigarettes. In the last two weeks there has also been a worrying increase in the looting of alcohol retailers, and more recently the looting of food retailers and trucks transporting food items.”
Law Enforcement personnel make over 1 300 arrests
Since the lockdown began, the Law Enforcement Department has made 1 326 arrests for contraventions of the Disaster Act. An undisclosed number of arrests were also made by the department for armed robbery, possession of illegal substances, attempted murder, attempted housebreaking and the like.
During these operations, staff confiscated 1 421 units of alcohol, 1 245 packs of cigarettes and seven firearms with ammunition.
Metro Police confiscate more than a million cigarettes
During the same period their Metro Police counterparts made 549 arrests and confiscated 1 365 units of drugs, 534 units of alcohol and more than a million cigarettes.
“The ban on alcohol and cigarettes has been a subject of lively debate since the announcement,” Smith says. “Of course there has continued to be trade in these items in spite of the ban, and the City is under no illusion that for all of the arrests and confiscations, there are many others who have managed to lay their hands on these goods.”