Cape Town - A new task force is to be set up by the City of Cape Town to combat gangs and drugs, effectively going over the heads of the police in an effort to help tackle the scourge.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said the new task force was set to “ramp up” the existing drug unit to focus on the gang and drug problem in a more “targeted way”.
“It’s a less shotgun, more sniper rifle approach,” he said.
The provincial police department said it had noted the city’s intention to set up a local gang task force, but added that it had been making strides in the attempt to eradicate gangs.
The city’s existing drug and gang units were drawn from internal resources, said Smith.
The units had “achieved a certain level of results but not enough to make an impact”.
There would be new players – including a senior official to run the task force and senior investigators to analyse information and data to home in on major players in the gang and drug industry.
The specialist members would be “pulling on data and knitting it together” as a means to use intelligence to fight crime. The information gathered would be captured as required in order to ensure it was “prosecutable”.
Information would be handed to police, but where city officials could act on information they would.
Smith said he had reached out to provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer two years ago about the matter, but had been constantly told to back off as it was not the city’s role.
Lamoer however, said it had always been the police’s contention that fighting violence in a sustainable manner required an integrated approach.
Lamoer added that through provincial joint intelligence and security, the police had ensured the engagement and participation of “all role-players in fighting crime”.
The issue of gang violence is exclusively a police competency and not within the city’s mandate to handle.
“Unfortunately, statistics acquired from the SAPS and the Ministry of Justice point to a conviction rate for gang violence that is 12 percent or lower and between just 2 to 5 percent in some areas,” said Smith.
Smith said the city’s and provincial government’s attempts to discuss the recent spate of gang violence with the national police office had “come to naught”.
“If the SAPS does have any planned interventions, the city is not aware of them.”
Lamoer shot back saying Operation Combat under the leadership of Major-General Jeremy Vearey, tackled gang violence in the province.
He said numerous operations were held which resulted in the arrest of gang leaders and members and the seizure of drugs and firearms in areas such as Manenberg and Lavender Hill.
He noted that 16 gang members in Atlantis were recently found guilty in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
“It’s worth noting that the provincial SAPS’ approach to the gang problem targets both prison and youth gangs operating in townships such as Nyanga, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha,” Lamoer said.
Smith said that while the 700-strong metro police force would continue its duties it could not “continue to compensate for SAPS apparent shortcomings”.