Cape Town - Experts say Western Cape gangs have become more sophisticated in their business operations, organisational structures and methods.

Professor Willem Luyt, of the Unisa law faculty, says gang strategies have changed.

In an interview with the Cape Argus, he said: “They think bigger, are becoming more deviant to protect activities, and are prepared to eliminate all forms of opposition, mainly because of growing intolerance and greed.

“The merger between street gangs and prison gangs took operations to the whole of the criminal world with less isolation in contact between the two systems.

“Violence between gangs has taken its toll over the years, but vigilantism is more rife today, partly because gangs know they have a good chance of getting away with their actions, partly because gangs are expanding and protecting turf, and partly because economic conditions are forcing gangs to become more vigilant to reach the same aims as a decade or two ago.

“Gangs have been forced to extend their operations significantly while at the same time it has become easier to cut losses and reorganise and open new business operations, like the sex industry that grew during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

“The constant inability of the police to properly implement new transformation and other policies, also ensures that deviant forces seize the moment while politics are played out at operational level.”

Referring to the two main prison gangs - the 26s and the 28s - he said the 26 gang was involved in activities to increase riches.

“They would develop new business opportunities, but at the same time would not hesitate to protect themselves and their operations. This may include killings.”

The 28s have historically been more violent, but they also focus on business opportunities.

“We have to remember that the late 1990s also showed extremely high incidences of shootings, mainly in the areas of the Cape Flats but also in Hermanus, Outshoorn, Saldanha and Vredenburg.

“Since the 1990s, Western Cape gangs have also showed greater sophistication and planning of all activities.

“For example, Cape gangs have increasingly defended their operations against Russian and Nigerian syndicates since South Africa became a democracy.”

Criminologist Ann-Mari Hesselink said the modus operandi of gangsters had remained the same worldwide.

Gangs flourished in societies characterised by social disorganisation.

Elements included “poverty, unemployment, family discord, family disintegration, poor parent-child supervision, criminal role models for the youth, the availability and easy access to substance abuse and illegal weapons, and a history of a culture of violence within the community”.

She added that the only new trends in gang behaviour would be “initiations and the types of criminal acts expected of the new members or when being ‘promoted’ to a higher rank”.

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Cape Argus