Durban - The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, has “dismantled” and “crippled” a number of high-profile gangs since last year.

It has also seized about R700-million worth of drugs and contraband with the help of communities.

In a written reply to a Parliamentary question, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the success rate was as a result of the Hawks’ probe into 11 criminal gangs countrywide.

He said the police also confiscated millions of rands worth of drugs and destroyed 360 million illegal cigarettes.

“Community support does play a vital role in providing information on criminal gangs. Members of the community report directly to the police or via mediums such as Drug Watch, Crime Stop, and the Public Service Commission hotline,” said Mthethwa in a written parliamentary reply.

Mthethwa was replying to Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota, who asked whether the government “has crippled any known and established criminal gangs” as a result of community support, by removing their firepower and eliminating their source of income from illegal trading in narcotics and alcohol and the distribution of contraband.

Mthethwa said the department had investigated 11 criminal organisations during the 2012/2013 financial year that were involved in drug-related crimes and had arrested 89 suspects.

“Drugs to the value of approximately R2-million were seized. The DPCI arrested a further 334 suspects with narcotics to the estimated value of R95-million during the same period,” said Mthethwa.

He said the police dismantled a clandestine ecstasy laboratory in Illovo, KwaZulu-Natal. They also seized ecstasy tablets, heroin and chemicals to the value of R37m and arrested two suspects.

Mthethwa said the metro police, the South African Revenue Service and other agencies provided support in some investigations .

“For the past financial year to date there have been a number of successes, of which 272 arrests were made, 264 convictions achieved and about R232m in counterfeit goods were seized,” said Mthethwa.

In the Eastern Cape, members of a gang known as the “blue light gang” were arrested last year on charges of murder and hijacking and were convicted and sentenced to a total of 120 years’ imprisonment, he said.

Mthethwa said an unnamed high-profile gang leader and 14 gang members were also charged with drug dealing, money laundering and racketeering in the Western Cape. Four of them were sentenced to a total of 36 years, he said.

The police minister said the particulars of all those gang members arrested were referred to the Asset Forfeiture Unit for money laundering investigations and confiscation of their assets.

The Mercury