Johannesburg - A specialised police unit has been formed to strengthen the fight against crime in Johannesburg.
The Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) have contributed officers to form the new Intervention Task Team, reports Joburg.org.
"The idea is to ensure that we intensify our fight against crime in the city," said the SAPS's Johannesburg Central commissioner, Ngwako Mashao recently.
Mr Mashao said they wanted to ensure people's safety, especially ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. "We want to make sure that whoever visits the city is safe."
He decried the increase in crime committed against businesses, especially in the central business district, and listed hijacking as one of crimes that was increasing in Johannesburg. "We will not allow any criminality in the city," Mr Mashao said.
Consisting of 33 officers, the unit ropes in 16 JMPD and 17 SAPS policemen. The officers will be on standby to respond to any crimes captured on the CCTV camera surveillance system monitoring the inner city.
"We have 216 cameras strategically placed to monitor the city 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said the JMPD's spokesperson Wayne Minnaar.
The group will support the other specialised units and crime-busting campaigns operating in Johannesburg, including Operation Nomakanjani, the vehicle inspection unit and the trio crimes unit.
Under the command of Mr Mashao and the JMPD's acting chief of police, David Tembe, the 33 officers will perform stop and search operations, will set up roadblocks, and will monitor liquor outlets.
They will be the first to be dispatched to crime scenes, and will work flexible hours using unmarked vehicles.
"Lots of crimes committed in the city are a result of [liquor] outlets. We will search for drugs there," said the SAPS's Johannesburg Central Senior Superintendent, Kobus Lategan.
The new unit would also intensify the fight against drug peddling and drug abuse, Mr Minnaar said.
Police dogs would be used in this "intensified" fight, even when raiding alcohol outlets. "We will make use of trained police dogs in cases of drugs. Some of these narcotics are not easily seen."
The unit will also accompany high-profile prisoners who were being transported across the city.
The 33 people in the unit had been selected based on their experience and were highly trained to deal with various crimes.
Mr Lategan added that the officers want to make a difference. "These are young and energetic officers. They are not interested in bribes. We want them to be creative in dealing with crime."
On its first day as a unit, it had arrested three suspects and recovered three unregistered firearms.
"We want to demonstrate that it is when we work together that we will be able to deal with crime. It is possible for us to work successfully together," Mr Mashao said.