Cape Town - Not many officers who walk into a house to find a 20 litre barrel of ephedrine in one corner, and a bag of red phosphorus on the table, will know what to do.
It’s situations like this why eight specially selected officers from the City of Cape Town’s Gang and Drug Task Force are receiving special training from the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Knowing the key ingredients for cooking tik equipped officer Nigel Kelly of the City’s Special Investigations Unit to shut down a drug house while keeping his team safe from the chemicals, just two weeks after a chemical diversion course with the DEA in 2012.
Now, Kelly is set to attend an Advanced Drug Agent course along with seven other officers from the city’s narcotics, canine and investigations divisions.
Mayor Patricia de Lille said the US has invested R10 million in training metro police since 2009, and it has been a huge boost to their drug-busting capabilities.
“Our latest available statistics indicate that the metro police made 2 042 drug-related arrests and confiscated 43 020 units of narcotics during 2014.
“These successes are the direct result of the intelligence-driven operations of the Gang and Drug Task Team, that can be attributed to the training that our officers have received from the DEA.”
The upcoming course is funded by the US government, and is taking place in Botswana next week. Officers from Ghana, Namibia, Uganda and Botswana will also be taking part, paving the way for crucial networking to take place, Kelly said.
“We are nothing without networking,” he said. “There are definitely international links, with ingredients being imported.”
Kelly referenced a bust on Beitbridge, where half a kilogram of heroin from Tanzania was seized on the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
“That was destined for Athlone,” he said.
Tip-offs from residents in drug-ridden areas like Manenberg have been key in busts and raids, but Kelly said he’s received information that gang leaders are now searching residents’ cellphones for evidence that they have tipped off law enforcement.
While the drug training from the DEA taught Kelly the crucial signs to look out for – like the telltale smell of vinegar when hunting for hidden whoonga – he said the gangs in Cape Town work very differently to US gangs.
“There it’s more ethnic groups, whereas here it’s not ethnic. Also there, it’s one territory on the East side, one on the West side. Here, there’s one street separating gangs.”