Cele introduced the 269 police officers in a community engagement event held in Mitchells Plain as part of the police’s Operation Thunder.
The deployed officers will focus on tracing suspects with outstanding cases. More roadblocks will be set up.
Cele also promised to root out taxi violence which has broken out in Delft.
He said the launch of the operation comes after weeks of visiting crime hot spots and engaging community residents.
The operation will for 90 days focus on areas such as South Africa’s murder capital, Nyanga as well as Manenberg Kraaifontein and Hanover Park which Cele said contributed heavily to murders rapes and drug-related crimes.
There were mixed reactions from those who attended the community engagements, with some praising the police while others complained that they had lost faith in them.
Addressing the 269 members directly, Cele told them: “We are here to declare war on criminality.
“I order you nobody must die with their gun in their hands (but) don’t be trigger-happy.
“Criminals here want to take you toe-to-toe. We are not going to share space with criminals. Squeeze them and squeeze them hard.
"They must feel that to be a criminal is costly. Don’t disappoint us, do your job and do it good,” he said.
Cele told the crowd that: “We did not bring all these people, 269, to play. We are here to work. We commit to you that by the time we go, life will be better.”
He said it was of concern that school-going age children in Mitchells Plain were roaming the streets. He said the few that he engaged with had told him schools were far away while some told him they only go to school on certain days.
“Why do kids not go to school here. We need to work hard to deal with social issues here,” said Cele to loud applause.
He said he would be accompanied by various government department officials, including from the Social Development Department, on his next visit to Mitchells Plain to engage with community leaders.
Mitchells Plain Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson Lucinda Evans said the time for speeches and boardroom talks had ended and it was now time for action.
“We understand that all lives matter. I am not here to put a bandage on a finger that is not wounded. We are not safe walking in the streets. Blood is flowing on our streets and our children are dying. These people (criminals) are not our friends. They are killing our children,” she said.
The CPF chairperson in Langa, Xoliswa Makana, said crime in her area had escalated to a point where it had installed fear among residents.
“Young children use drugs. Langa is not what it was.
"We are now losing its history because of the drug problem,” said Makana.
Five hours before Cele went to Mitchells Plain, he engaged with train commuters on the Central Line, when he was given a first-hand account of the daily experiences of commuters travelling from Chris Hani station in Khayelitsha to Cape Town station.
“I have never seen such a packed train.bWe were like sardines. There was absolutely no oxygen on that train,” said Cele.