The specialised anti-gang unit, led by top cop Jeremy Vearey, and to be officially launched on Thursday, will help rid the communities and prisons of gangs.
The unit’s strategic approach is two-pronged, according to Vearey, hitting the gangs’ business operations and their network operations - both in neighbourhoods and inside prisons.
“In addition to arresting the culprits, the revenue streams need to be cut off because they also contribute to violence. When their market doesn’t grow and becomes congested, competition becomes intense, and so does violence.
“So this unit will tackle those gangs that have been there for the past 40 to 50 years that have grown into what they are now and also dislodge the prison links, because we cannot have prison gangs,” Vearey said.
The new approach, he said, was informed by intelligence work that was carried out, as well as lessons learnt from the shortcomings of past efforts.
Some of the problems included the lack of a legal framework that criminalised gang operations as organised crime, and the failure by some government partners to deliver on a multi-dimensional approach.
Vearey also pointed out the failures of a “paramilitary” approach of the police in the past which led to one operation after another, with little success.
The new unit will be bolstered by a clear legislative framework and resources which until now had either not existed or were not sufficient.
Although further details about the unit will be made known when it is officially launched in Hanover Park by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Thursday the spokesperson for the Police Ministry said it would focus on restoring calm and order in the communities.
“When they wake up in the morning, all that will be on their minds is fighting gang activities,” police spokeswoman Reneilwe Seroro said. Seroro added that the unit had been working for the past few weeks, clinching positive results. “Some members have told us that their children can now play in the streets once again,” said.
Gangsters on the Cape Flats - from Manenberg to Hanover Park, Lavender Hill to Gugulethu and Crossroads - shoot and kill each other and members of communities in the battle for supremacy, turf ownership, membership and drug distribution.
Vearey acknowledged that the unit’s work would not be easy.
“Gangs have existed for more than 150years and have networks both inside the prisons and outside. If a criminal is sent to prison, they become part of a larger network and a culture network, which is dangerous because it equips with them with paramilitary discipline - more like a cult.”