Cape Town -
One person is killed nearly every day in the Western Cape as a result of gang violence.
This average is based on the Western Cape police’s annual report, which says that within a year, 309 people were murdered in gang-related incidents.
In that same period, from April 1, 2012 to March 31 last year, gang activity accounted for 998 attempted murders – a third of all attempted murders in the province in that time.
The city has criticised police heavily, and is setting up its own task force to deal with gangsterism, despite this being beyond its mandate.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith did not believe what police were doing was effective.
“Every day there is another gang murder – another family destroyed, another innocent bystander shot, another child hurt, another police officer killed. So clearly, what the SAPS is currently doing is not working.”
Smith said the new task force, which could be operational within weeks, would consist of members from various other city units and services, as well as external prosecutors and investigators. The task force would help build cases so that police could take further action.
“While it is not within the City of Cape Town’s mandate to handle crime prevention and gang-related violence (this is exclusively a SAPS competency), the current conviction rate for gang violence is 12 percent or lower, and between just 2-5 percent in some areas.
“This is unacceptable and explains why gangsters carry on killing and running their destructive business with impunity year after year,” Smith said.
This year, while police have not yet released official statistics, the Cape Times has established that, based on statements from police, Emergency Medical Services and community police forums, at least 24 people have been killed in shootings. A number of those shootings were suspected to be gang-related.
The provincial police’s annual report said there were 12 main street gangs and three prison gangs which integrated with street gangs. “There are also a myriad of splinter gangs affiliated to the bigger gangs, which also fight for survival…
“The fact that ‘up and coming’ gangs have a point to prove makes the situation even more volatile and dangerous,” it said.
The report said rival gangs fought over their “interests”, which included the drug trade, prostitution and robbery.
“These ‘wars’ are waged for extended periods, ‘peaking’ when very high levels of violence are experienced. Fights practically always involve drive-by and indiscriminate shooting at rivals,” it said.
The report said gang leaders were “rarely physically” involved in committing crimes, making it difficult to apprehend them.
On Thursday, police spokesman Andre Traut said gangsterism was regarded as “a very high priority”.
“We are well aware of areas where gang violence is prevalent, and measures are in place to address these situations. Our operational tactics are, however, not made public for obvious reasons,” he said.
Asked about the conviction rate involving gang cases, regional justice department head Hishaam Mohamed told the Cape Times the department would release statistics at an “appropriate time and for appropriate reasons”.
“The City of Cape Town should not venture in unmandated terrain and play with the lives and security of innocent people, because if things go wrong it must not then blame the criminal justice system,” he said.
Mohamed said a “consultative government approach”, in which the city’s law enforcement authorities communicated with the department, was in place and needed to be used.