The new SAPS anti-gang unit in Hanover Park, Cape Town. The ANC EC on November 20 called on Police Minister Bheki Cele to deploy an anti-gang unit in PE's northern areas. File picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency/ANA.
Cape Town - Following the successful rollout of the police’s Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) in problem areas on the Cape Flats, the unit is set to go national.

Police Minister Bheki Cele was scheduled to conduct an oversight visit in the northern areas of Port Elizabeth today, 3 December to assess the gang problem.

An AGU is also operational in some violence-racked suburbs of Johannesburg, such as Eldorado Park and Westbury.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on police has called for “fully fledged and well-resourced” AGUs to be rolled out in all metropolitan areas of the country.

Gauteng police spokesperson Mathapelo Peters confidently confirmed that the AGU was successful in the province.

Peters said the dynamics were different in each province.

“On our side we have been looking at organisational crime and illegal mining syndicates. I am confident to say it has been working well. We have conducted a number of arrests.”

The police portfolio committee is on a separate visit to Port Elizabeth today, after a surge in gang-related violence and calls from community members for intervention.

Committee chairperson Francois Beukman said they were concerned about violent crime patterns in certain areas and would use the visit to determine the root causes of the violence by talking with community leaders, residents, community policing forums (CPFs) and various branches of the police.

Beukman said the key to dealing with gang violence was to ensure that affected communities became partners with the law enforcement agencies, while socio-economic upliftment and job creation were the main drivers of community empowerment,

He said the committee would focus on five matters, namely the anti-gang capacity of the police in Port Elizabeth; the relationship between local communities and police; the resource allocation of police stations in areas where gang violence was prevalent; the functionality of CPFs and neighbourhood watches in the affected areas; and the effectiveness of specialised units of the police in the Eastern Cape.

“The committee supports the intention of Cele to re-establish murder and robbery units to deal with contact crimes in hotspot areas,” Beukman said.

During the visit, the committee plans to engage with the Eastern Cape provincial police commissioner Liziwe Ntshinga on efforts to deal with crime in the province, and the committee will also receive briefings from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

Gangs in areas such as Bloemendal, Helenvale and Gelvandale in Port Elizabeth continue to be under the spotlight as the number of gang-related murders increases.

The latest shooting happened on Saturday. The incident left three people injured, including a 21-year-old suspected gang affiliate who was arrested minutes after police responded to a crime scene in Gelvandale.

The shooting incident occurred hours after police and the CPFs of Bethelsdorp and Gelvandale embarked on a roadshow through the northern areas calling on communities to make a stand against gangsterism.

Mount Road cluster commander Thembisile Patekile appealed to the communities to work with the police and to be resilient.

“We need the community to stand firm and help us to rid this area of gang activity. We cannot allow innocent lives to be lost at the merciless hands of criminals.” Patekile said.

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Cape Argus