The City of Cape Town’s drug busters have racked up a number of successes, yet they work with minimal resources.
Operating undercover, the highly trained six-person unit sets up sting operations, often with the police, arresting drug dealers across the city.
This year, the unit set up 30 sting operations, arrested 50 drug dealers and confiscated drugs worth more than R1 million. But the team’s work has largely gone unnoticed.
A source close to the unit said the members were unhappy that they were often ignored when it came to resourcing. Also, they had to work with the housing department recently, investigating suspected drug dealers or users living in city rental stock, which detracts from their task of going after high-flyers.
They perform the work of a narcotics unit, but do not have as much power as a police unit. Their successes come at a time when nationally, the DA is calling for the re-establishment of a dedicated narcotics unit.
In Cape Town, a drug war is playing itself out, notably on the Cape Flats and in the south. Seven children and 16 adults have died and many others have been wounded.
The DA’s call came after a UN drug report showed that the Western Cape was a major manufacturer of drugs like tik, and that dagga and heroin use had escalated.
The city’s six drug-busters are in the metro police and, on Sunday, JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security, said eight more members would be appointed soon, and they would get new vehicles.
Smith said the team worked closely with most police stations and was often called in to help in their drug operations. He was scathing of the police’s claim that of 86 gang-related offences in Hanover Park, there had only been 51 arrests and no prosecutions.
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato lauded the unit, saying it was an example of what a specialised approach could achieve. “The city’s metro police has seen a tenfold increase in the number of drug-related arrests since the start of the unit (in 2008) and this without any additional metro police members, but rather through a unit that focuses on a specific type of crime.”
Yolanda Faro, metro police deputy chief, said the unit had received training from the American Drug Enforcement Agency, and worked closely with the South African police.
Provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer said there were a number of operations between the metro police and SAPS, but his office was not aware of the city’s drug buster unit.