While police crime intelligence units are making some strides to combat organised crime, their own colleagues are also setting them back through gun smuggling or actively participating in such crimes, crime experts said.
High calibre weapons and explosives continue to be found at crime scenes as organised crimes such as kidnapping and extortion have increased in recent years. Police officers have also been apprehended in connection with syndicates.
According to Police Minister Bheki Cele two suspects were arrested in an upmarket estate in KwaZulu-Natal.
Two rifles, two shot guns, four 9mm pistols, 58 rifle live ammunition, fourteen shotgun live ammunition and thirty nine live ammunition rounds were seized.
In a cash-in-transit (CIT) heist, three Highway Patrol police members were arrested and six rifles, a 9mm pistol, 12 fully loaded magazines, explosives and detonator cord recovered. The recovered pistol was subsequently linked to another CIT incident.
“In the Eastern Cape, police arrested a gang that had robbed a store of R1 million worth of jewellery. Police followed up on information and tracked down and arrested all ten suspects. All the stolen jewellery was recovered as well as four firearms. This syndicate is linked to numerous other similar heists across the country,” said Cele.
He briefed the media on the response to serious and violent crimes such as kidnapping, extortion and (CIT) heists.
Cele said they have gone to lengths as the government to capacitate the SAPS Crime Intelligence division to be effective, capable and up to the task to identify and infiltrate syndicates.
“It is clear the major shake-up and change of management in the Crime Intelligence unit is starting to yield positive results.
“The Crime Intelligence division now has a tighter grip and is providing crucial information that is assisting everyday policing. Some of the work is a direct result of a capacitated SAPS that has effective units that are up to the task and working without fear of favour.
“These meticulously conducted take-downs should renew our hope as a country, that officers in blue are gaining ground against crime and continue to flush out criminality in both affluent and impoverished areas of society,” said Cele.
According to Gun Free South Africa researcher Claire Taylor, urgent action was needed to reduce the pool of firearms and ammunition in South Africa by establishing a specialised firearms unit that is effectively resourced to recover and destroy legal and illegal guns and ammunition.
“We must urgently strengthen controls over legal firearms and ammunition to stop these guns leaking into criminal hands.
“Key actions to do this include ensuring that SA has a fully-functioning Central Firearms Registry which keeps accurate records on all firearms, ammunition and owners as well as strengthening the Firearms Control Act to close loopholes and improve oversight over the entire firearms control management system to combat fraud and corruption,” said Taylor.
She said without a doubt some police and SANDF members were also involved in smuggling high calibre firearms to organised crime syndicates.
Taylor said a range of interventions could focus on the development, implementation and monitoring of appropriate standards to properly manage, store, sell and transport firearms and ammunition.
Institute for Security Studies’ Enhancing Africa's Response to Tansnational Organised Crime (ENACT) senior training coordinator, Willem Els said the major shake-up at Crime Intelligence was long overdue and should not be just cosmetic.
“They should cut to the bone and get rid of criminal actors and incompetent managers from top to bottom. It is a good thing to capacitate the CI, but they should not have allowed things to deteriorate to this extent. It takes years to build up a competent and functional crime intelligence capability and it cannot be fast tracked. It will take time with sound leadership, effective recruitment and solid training, backed up with the resources they need to do their job with no political interference. If they apply this you will soon start to notice successes, that will rise as the capacity builds up.”
“A criminal syndicate can only flourish when it receives high level protection, the higher the better and these corrupt officials should also be exposed and brought to book, no matter what their political affiliation. We need to stamp out corruption by a proper vetting of new recruits and lifestyle audits on suspected criminal elements within the police,” said Els.