Police’s gang strategy not stopping scourge of gang and drug related crimes

Dan Plato, MPP

Western Cape Minister of Community Safety

Over the last couple of months the South African Police Service (SAPS) management has revealed their four pillar approach to counter gangsterism in the Western Cape, at public engagements, media events, conferences and on social media, but this strategy is not working.

The strategy places a specific focused approach against targeted street and prison gangs through:

  • Specific crime information or intelligence management;
  • Project-driven gang investigation;
  • Strategic visible policing deployment; and
  • Community mobilisation.

Though this strategy looks good on paper, the sad reality for communities in the province is that this strategy is failing them and too many people are still dying at the hands of drug lords and gang bosses.

The strategy put forward by the SAPS management requires either a deeper understanding or a revisit in effectiveness, as the situation on the ground is getting worse.

The latest crime statistics has shown the horrid year-on-year increases in murder (12.8%), attempted murder (2.5%) and drug related crime (4.1%) to name but a few associated with gang activities.

More worryingly, it also shows a mere 1.7% increase in crime detected as a result of police action which does not instil confidence in SAPS’ capability for crime intelligence management or investigations.

The fact that the SAPS in the province remain functionally under-resourced with as much as 85% of stations without adequate manpower is confirmed at most of the Department of Community Safety’s Policing Needs and Priority consultation meetings where the public’s first complaint is always about a lack of visible policing across the board.

The Western Cape Government believes that a whole-of-society approach is needed to make communities safer in the province and we have acknowledged time and again that the police cannot do it alone.

It is however extremely worrying that the provincial SAPS management is calling on greater community mobilisation without a more detailed plan or communication strategy for how communities should mobilise themselves within the confines of the law.

I commend the brave officers in blue on the ground who have to face angry communities on a daily basis who are tired of inaction when it comes to fighting the scourge of drugs and gangs in the province. It is the same officers who are under capacitated, overworked and not receiving coherent and detailed direction from the SAPS management in the province.

For there to be any gains made in eradicating drugs and gangs from our communities, each person, department, sphere of government and role-player must give action to their words. This four pillar strategy of SAPS, which looks good on paper, needs to be unpacked further and properly implemented.

In the province, the Department of Community Safety encourages communities to become actively involved in their local safety structures, be it the Neighbourhood Watch or Community Policing Forums. Where problems arise we support the notion of forming Community Safety Forums to engage and assist with safety on a larger scale.

We believe that through meaningful partnerships, like these mentioned above, we give action to the notion of a whole-of-society approach.

The SAPS should follow suit with meaningful partnerships with communities in rebuilding relationships and cooperation with the communities through effective communication and detail with regards to probably the biggest strategy to affect the lives of people in the province.

The SAPS management cannot keep the people of this province, communities, and officers on the ground at arm’s length when it comes to the information pertaining to, and interventions to combat, gangs and drugs in the province.