Police say they will take civil action against those involved in the “abduction” of a month-old Durban baby to recoup the massive costs they incurred searching for her.
KwaZulu-Natal deputy provincial commissioner for the detective service Major-General Bala Naidoo said on Sunday that they had engaged with the National Prosecuting Authority on what processes would be used to recover the enormous costs incurred by police to find the baby, and a prosecutor had been assigned to the case.
He said more than 100 police officers had searched for the baby since Friday.
“This was a false case and cost us money and resources that could have been deployed in other places.
“We are very serious about recovering our lost costs. After all, this was a waste of taxpayers’ money. It must be recovered. We are already in the process of compiling such submissions to put before the court,” Naidoo said.
He said private security companies and members of the community had also played a big role in the search.
“We all knew how critical every minute was to finding this baby. The truth is that the community gave us the encouragement and support we needed. They were amazing.”
He said members of the community had slept in their cars since Friday and some worked overnight with police.
Sources within the emergency services say the costs could total hundreds of thousands of rand.
One source said when the costs of overtime for police and other emergency personnel were considered, in addition to the costs of refuelling helicopters and vehicles and having trained tracker dogs out in the field, the bill could easily be in excess of R500 000.
The head of Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa), Prem Balram, said while they were relieved the baby had been found unharmed, the search had been a waste of time and resources for his company.
“We were involved in the search for the missing baby from around midday on Friday. I incurred direct costs of more than R60 000 over Friday and Saturday,” he said.
Balram also said Rusa had dispatched its helicopter with two staff, at a cost of R7 000 an hour.
“The helicopter flew for two hours on Friday and three hours on Saturday at a cost of R40 000 (which includes costs for the pilot and crew).”
Balram said he had also deployed eight vehicles and several members to join the search for the baby. This had cost R20 000.
“I am very upset that this turned out to be a fake hijacking. But this incident has helped reaffirm the community’s faith in police.
“They also worked closely with us to crack this case and we must continue to solve other crimes in a similar way.”
Balram said he had been conducting an air search in the Chatsworth area for the baby when he received a call about a drowning at Hazelmere Dam.
“The family wanted me to do an air search over the dam, but I was too far away to fly back. It angers me to think that we could have been working on genuinely saving a life instead following a false case.”
Rescue Care’s Garrith Jamieson echoed this sentiment and said while the private ambulance service had not incurred great financial costs, the resources they had deployed to search for the baby had had to be diverted from other cases. IOL