National Gang unit making inroads

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the establishment of the Anti-Gang Unit last year, hundreds of gang-related arrests have been made by the elite unit.

The announcement was made by the SA Police Service’s Major General Leon Rabie when the police top brass, led by Minister Bheki Cele and National Police Commissioner Kehla Sitole, briefed the Portfolio Committee on Police on Tuesday.

Rabie said after the establishment of the Anti-Gang Unit, which is a national approach to curbing gangsterism and drugs in areas considered to be gang hotspots, several successes have been registered as a result of operations through the provincial organised crime secretariat that was set up in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Western Cape and the Eastern Cape.

He said the operations have been registered as projects that are multi-pronged and involve a number of stakeholders, including community-based structures.

“In Gauteng, there are 10 identified gangs or groups… Nine arrests have been made, four firearms and five vehicles confiscated.

“In KwaZulu-Natal, there are 10 identified groups, 28 registered projects, 29 arrests, four firearms confiscated and two vehicles seized. In the Free State, there are 10 identified gangs and 39 arrests have been made,” he said.

Rabie said in terms of the targeted gangs and groupings in the Western Cape, the unit has identified a total of 20.

“Associated with that are 30 registered projects; 221 arrests have been made, 77 firearms have been confiscated and four vehicles have been confiscated.

“In the Eastern Cape, we are currently focusing on 10 identified gangs with 20 registered projects. They have arrested 36 suspects, confiscated 19 firearms and two vehicles,” he said.

A closer look at how gangs operate 

Briefing members of Parliament, Rabie said the unit has profiled a number of gang figures around the country, especially in the provinces that have been identified.

He profiled them in terms of their levels and how they operate.

“At a lower level, we have the activities for inter-gang violence and that primarily takes place at street level. Most of the gang violence and turf wars take place at this level, and that is where you will find drug runners and robbers, and these are the things that are affecting communities the most.

“At the second level, one will find local gang leaders in different areas and they primarily focus on controlling drugs and liquor outlets and other criminal activities and they are also in charge of leading gangs in these areas,” Rabie said.

Prominent leadership figures are found on the third tier and they are considered to be sponsors of inter-gang violence at street level and they do represent the socio-economic power that is associated with gangsterism.

“Then we have the inter-provincial tier, where we are looking at high flyers seeking to expand their business across provincial boundaries with regard to firearms, drugs, hitmen, club security - with specific reference to Gauteng.

“We would also like to highlight the hitmen from the Western Cape gangs that are being hired by gangs in the Westbury environment.

“At the highest level, there are transnational activities, where gangs engage in links to transnational organised crime groups and syndicates and these specific activities are the most pertinent threat to the national security of the country,” Rabie said.

Gang suspects, syndicates under investigation 

Rabie said there are many investigations at different stages throughout the provinces.

“If you look at the number of investigations and inquiries that we are currently dealing with, in the Eastern Cape, the number of dockets that [investigators] are dealing with totals 1 094, and 400 are [before the courts] and 694 dockets are under investigation, with a total of 33 inquiries.

“In the Free State, there is a total of 56 dockets that are being investigated… 24 are going to court and 32 are currently under investigation. In Gauteng, [there are] 267 cases being managed, and 235 are before the courts and 32 [are] under investigation.

“In KwaZulu-Natal, there are 46. In the Western Cape, a total of 889 [dockets are active], with 448 in the court system and 441 are under investigation.

“That gives you a total of 2 352 dockets that are currently being dealt with… in the respective provinces, of which 1 132 are currently in the court system and 1 188 are currently under investigation.”

Rabie said, meanwhile, that just over 1 500 schools have been linked to school committees as part of the unit’s school safety strategy in gang hotspots. While there are still problems in those areas, Rabie said they have noted that there has been a positive impact and that the schools are now functional. –