Cape's top brass briefed on gang problem

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irvin kinnes INLSA rvin Kinnes of the Centre for Criminology makes a point during his briefing at the Community Safety standing committee meeting. Picture: JEFFREY ABRAHAMS

Provincail police top brass, their metro police counterparts and a handful of “security cleared” officials met with local provincial politicians behind closed doors last night to discuss an anti-gang strategy.

The meeting came at the end of a day when the provincial community safety standing committee was briefed on gangs by a retired judge and two top criminologists - one of whom called for an independent commission of inquiry into police corruption.

Criminologist Liza Grobler told the committee about how some police officers colluded with gangs prior to raids, seized and resold drugs and were on the payrolls of gang leaders. Dockets either disappeared or were sold, while firearm licences were issued fraudulently, she said.

“SA police make wonderful arrests, but SA police are too reactive. We need an independent, non-partisan inquiry into police corruption. This is just to lift the lid to see what is going on and how they operate,” Grobler said.

Irvin Kinnes, a researcher at the Centre for Criminology, said while he agreed with Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, who alleged there was corruption in the police, he was dismayed to witness Plato attacking police. Co-operation at all levels would help in the fight against the scourge of gangsterism, he said.

Over the years, gangs have changed with respect to the extent that they now use automatic firearms, run businesses and use technology ordinary people don’t have, Kinnes said. Drugs were at the root of the gang problem, which would remain as long as there were drug users, he said.

“The only way to deal with the problem is to give young people opportunities. We can only do so when government departments work together,” Kinnes said.

Retired Judge Deon Van Zyl echoed Kinnes’s view that drugs play a huge role. He said while police needed all the help they could get, the focus should not be on gang members themselves, but rather on their activities.

Van Zyl also told the committee how in the early 1990s, Pagad (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs) had united not only residents, but also gangsters, who felt the heat and united to resist attempts to destroy them.

Pagad was a response to the community’s concerns about drugs and gangs, but its militancy became its undoing, Van Zyl said.

Metro police chiefs detailed the successes of the gang unit established this year and how co-operation with police yielded results such as drug seizures and arrests.

Community Safety chief director Gideon Morris said the Western Cape accounted for 47 percent of the country’s drug-related cases.

Drug-related crimes continued despite various types of interventions, he said.

Prisons - particularly the sections for awaiting-trial and unsentenced inmates - were “recruiting fields” for gangs, Morris said, and added that these made up about 10 percent of the prison population. - Cape Times

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