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Cape Town - The success of anti-drug enforcement agencies at Cape Town International Airport has moved the drug trafficking trade to national roads.
On Monday, Lead SA - a collaboration between the Cape Argus, 567 CapeTalk, 94.5 Kfm and law enforcement agencies - kicks off Operation Drug Watch to highlight efforts by law enforcement agencies to clamp down on the drug smuggling trade and to give readers and listeners a way to report drug peddling in their communities.
There has been an escalation in the transportation and distribution of drugs by taxis, according to police.
Buses and trucks are used for the transportation of drugs by road and taxi drivers seem to be actively involved in some of cases, said provincial police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut.
Investigators at the police’s command centre said tik, mandrax and dagga were still among the most popular drugs in Cape Town. Traut said that with the exception of large seizures at drug laboratories, the largest seizures were made on roads.
Police said it appeared that the recent successful seizures at the airport had “definitely” caused changes in criminals’ strategies in terms of drug smuggling.
Domestic flights from OR Tambo International Airport to Cape Town International have been noted as the most popular drug trafficking routes.
Tik is also trafficked between OR Tambo airport and George airport and then transported by road to Cape Town.
Buses have been known to be used to traffic drugs between the Eastern Cape and Cape Town, while long-distance freights are used to transport drugs between Gauteng and via the N1 to dealers in the Western Cape.
Operation Drug Watch was born from a collaboration between Lead SA as well as SAPS, provincial traffic and Metro police and traffic.
Both radio stations and the Cape Argus will report on the number of arrests and seizures on a regular basis, to be published in the newspaper and broadcast on Eye Witness News on 567 CapeTalk and Kfm.
Kfm station manager Colleen Louw said: “We all got together to discuss a roll-out and execution plan.”
She said the broadcasters had decided to commit to support local authorities because an overwhelming majority of crimes in the Western Cape were related to substance abuse.
“Our listeners are affected every day by drug-related crimes... it affects families from all over the Western Cape. We want to take back control by stopping perpetrators in their tracks; on our roads and in our neighbourhoods.”
Louw called on radio listeners to be vigilant about reporting criminal activity: “As civil society we need to be accountable in assisting to uphold the laws. Lead SA encourages South Africans to ‘do the right thing’ by standing up for the law.”
She said it was about “telling the story of the harsh realities we face and the implications of drug-related crimes”.
“This is by no means a ‘quick fix’, but an attempt to put a dent in a growing problem.”
Western Cape provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer said arrests related to the confiscation of tik were very high.
When asked whether police were winning the war on drugs, Lamoer said: “You can ask whether Mexico is winning the war, or whether Columbia is winning the war on drugs… the issue is: drugs [are] and will continuously be a major problem.”
Lamoer added that even though police were making progress with thousands of arrests, their successes were merely a way of highlighting how serious the problem was.
“The problem is that we are only seeing it as a policing problem, but it’s a bigger societal problem,” he said.
He encouraged law enforcement agents to “stay focused and stay vigilant” during the festive season.
The city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith agreed that tik and the growing availability of the drug was a major concern.
Smith said there were plans afoot to regulate commercially-bought precursor products used in the manufacturing of chemicals used to make drugs like tik.
However, Smith said “there are definitely loopholes in terms of regulations” relating to precursor chemicals.
He said local authorities had turned to the national government in an attempt to close the loopholes and that in the last six months they had a series of meetings, had worked on a memorandum and made recommendations to cabinet to initiate legislation for consideration.
He said during the festive season the focus would shift to roadblocks and the separation of areas with a focus on the CBD.
“Not a week goes past when I don’t have a delegation of community representatives unpacking situations on drugs in certain areas,” he said.
The Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre’s Ashley Potts said tik was statistically the most commonly used drug, followed by heroin and dagga.
He said of the people who came to the centre, between 40 and 50 said tik was their drug of choice. “Generally, the sense is that it’s too readily available in all local communities - in both poorer and affluent areas.”
He said the main concern was getting a message out of what kind of help was available. Tik patients were generally treated as out-patients.
“Out-patient treatment is still the better option because it gives them an opportunity to remain in their current scenario and at the same time giving them the tools to elevate from the situation and in that way families are also involved and need to be aware of what counselling is available so that they can come on their own without the users,” he said.
About tik, he said counselling was essential: “There is a strong therapeutic process to assist them in getting out of it and the help that is offered… but there is still a huge stigma attached in terms of accessing therapy for treatment,” he said.
SMS tip-offs to Crimeline at 32211 (SMSes cost R1).