SIX weeks – and at least 23 people have been murdered in the city’s hot spots for gang violence.

Gang rivalry and violence centres on Lavender Hill and Hanover Park. In these two areas at least 17 people have been killed in six weeks.

In Lavender Hill, which has the highest gang violence killing toll and where neighbourhood watch member Soraya Nordien was murdered last week, the situation has escalated to the point that neighbourhood watch volunteers have been told not to patrol the streets as it has become too dangerous.

Yesterday community safety MEC Dan Plato said he had recently attended meetings with leaders, residents, police and neighbourhood watch volunteers in Lavender Hill and Hanover Park to discuss how to deal with the gang problem.

He said that during both meetings one message had come out the strongest – young residents needed to be focused on.

This was because children, mainly teenagers, were either being recruited into gangs or involved in shootings.

“We want to try and prevent them from entering into gangs… I know of 14- and 15- year-olds with three attempted murders to their names,” Plato said.

A youth summit was therefore in the pipeline for both Lavender Hill and Hanover Park, and Plato said it was hoped this would give young residents a chance to speak out about what they needed and wanted.

Further meetings in the communities had been planned so that details of the summit could be settled on.

In December last year, following a previous surge in gang violence, Plato had driven and backed peace pacts in areas including Lavender Hill, Hanover Park and Elsies River.

The pacts, which some community leaders had not approved of as they did not support the idea of engaging with gangsters, had seen rival gang leaders vowing to stop fighting.

These pacts had since collapsed.

But yesterday Plato said he was facilitating new peace talks between community leaders and gangsters. “The point is we must continue trying to bring back normality into the communities,” he said.

Plato acknowledged that one of his methods to approach gang violence – talking to gang leaders – had not been welcomed by all residents and community leaders.

“People can criticise my efforts to talk to community-based gangsters. But we collect a wealth of information that way.

“Yes, people might see it as destructive and wrong, but the important thing is that we get the information. That’s how we find out what’s happening on the ground, who the kingpin is and how to tackle the problem,” he said.

On Wednesday provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer told the Cape Times sufficient police officers had been deployed in Hanover Park and Lavender Hill. Among them were detectives and intelligence operatives.

Lamoer had requested that residents who became witnesses to gang violence agree to testify in court because if they did not, it was more difficult to pin a crime on a gangster in court.

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