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‘Officers too busy policing Covid-19, not Cape gangs’

Metro police patrol the streets of Bonteheuwel. Gang violence in Bonteheuwel has surged in recent weeks. Photographer: ArmandHough/African News Agency(ANA)

Metro police patrol the streets of Bonteheuwel. Gang violence in Bonteheuwel has surged in recent weeks. Photographer: ArmandHough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jun 11, 2020

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Cape Town - A spike in gang-related shootings in the province could be connected to prisoners released on parole to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in correctional facilities. This is according to Mayco member for Safety and Security JP Smith.

City law enforcement officers were out in force in Bonteheuwel on Wednesday in response to several gang-related murders and ongoing shooting in the area. At least four people, including a father and his 2-year-old son, were shot dead in the span of a week. Residents were asked for information. Many refused to say anything as they feared intimidation by gangsters.

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Recent data has indicated that 44.6% of all homicides reported at the Western Cape’s 11 priority police stations - Nyanga, Samora Machel, Delft, Khayelitsha, Philippi East, Harare, Gugulethu, Mfuleni, Kraaifontein, Mitchells Plain and Bishop Lavis - occurred in the first nine weeks of the lockdown. However, the lockdown has seen a 43% decrease in homicides compared with the same period last year.

The data was presented during a provincial safety strategy briefing by the Department of the Premier to a standing committee on the premier and constitutional matters.

Smith said: “The gang violence has occurred across the city almost simultaneously and it’s hard to understand how this could not have a common cause. The cause could possibly be interventions by an external gang trying to assert itself, which was raised to us, and particularly the 6 000 prisoners released (early) could be trying to settle old scores and reclaim their turf.”

During yesterday’s presentation provincial government officials Hildegarde Fast and Gideon Morris said: “There is no single contributing factor to a decrease in violence and crime

during lockdown, but the association between alcohol and violent behaviour is well established.

“The province sees an opportunity to engage on alcohol harms reduction after Covid-19, which could include regulations around the sale of liquor, targeted policing of illegal sale of alcohol and addressing issues of problematic alcohol behaviour, such as heavy drinking.”

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Addressing the impact of gangsterism in Bonteheuwel, ward councillor Angus McKenzie said: “It’s important for us to pre-think what gangsters are possibly planning to do and quickly nip it in the bud.

“During levels 5 and 4 there was a general good compliance of people staying indoors, including gangsters, and that left them with enough time to plan certain attacks.”

Smith said law enforcement resources had been divided between addressing land invasion issues, public violence and protests, and now widespread gang violence across the city, which could also have contributed to the increase in gang activity.

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Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz has condemned the increase in the number of murders, saying he was told by the provincial police commissioner of 118 recent homicides in the province.

“The Western Cape has seen an increase in the number of alcohol-related trauma cases since the unbanning of alcohol. The increase in the murder rate was extremely concerning as the health-care system is already under pressure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Fritz said.

Community activist Henriette Abrahams said: “Unfortunately, we have never been under lockdown (but) the gang violence, shootings have been going on from morning until night.”

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Provincial and national government “are failing to plan for the priorities”, she said.

“When we were hit with Covid-19, all the resources went to combating it, including law enforcement.”

@TheCapeArgus

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