Police tighten grip on the ’Plain

Some of the firearms that were confiscated by police during their operation in Mitchells Plain last month.

Mitchell’s Plain police station officers intensified their fight against crime and gangsterism in the area last month.

About 10 people died in gang shootings and 22 people were arrested for attempted murder.

During a media briefing last Friday, August 4, on the police’s successes in the past month, Mitchell’s Plain police station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam said they confiscated 14 firearms and 45 lives rounds of ammunition.

They also found 31 packets of drugs between Wednesday and Friday morning. Brigadier Goolam blamed the escalation of violence in the area on gang wars. “The challenge we are having in terms of crime emanates predominately from gang activities. (Gangs are) driven by competition for territory which they defend to the death, hence the discovery of these firearms. We have escalated our operations in the precinct, focusing predominantly on Rocklands, Tafelsig and Eastridge,” he said.

Brigadier Goolam said for an area such as Mitchells Plain to recover so many firearms in such a short period is remarkable but also alarming because despite the high level of prosecution, the gangs continue with their activities.

“That forces us to relook our strategy; whether we are having an impact in terms of prosecution or is there any other measures that need to be implemented,” said Brigadier Goolam.

He also urged the community to work together with the police to fight crime. “I believe if the community can come in we can defeat gangsterism easily. It’s just that the encouragement to the community to participate often falls on deaf ears and it’s only when individual’s families become victims, that they come on board,” said Brigadier Goolam.

He said he is concerned about the demarcation of wards and consequently the police sectors, dividing resources.

“Our sectors are not congruent to the boundaries of the wards. You’ll find that the ward may criss-cross over sectors. So the structures acting in a particular sector in terms of the ward might be split into two. When a particular councillor gives certain resources to a neighbourhood watch in his ward he will leave out half of that neighbourhood watch then there will be those questions: why them, why not us and cause divisions and conflicts and some withdraw and our energy as police becomes misdirected,” he said.

Brigadier Goolam said there is a tendency especially in the Western Cape where the City wants to take charge of neighbourhood watches with politicians calling them “our structures”. “It was the police who started it even before me in 2004,” he said.

However, Brigadier Goolam acknowledged that the level of violence is unprecedented at the moment.

“For example, you will find that in one scene sometimes it’s 18 shots in one person,” he said, adding that they had good successes in terms of arrests based on the investigation and quick response from the police.

“I believe the community can do much more in terms of giving direction to the police, preventing such shootings.

“The reason why I’m saying so is that the perpetrators are people who grew up in the area,” he said.

Brigadier Goolam also dismissed the allegations that there is no police visibility in Mitchell’s Plain.

Responding to the Plainsman, he said: “I differ with you, that is a campaigning subject. Police are not allowed to respond to the media to educate people so the people will listen to what the politicians are saying and reading the tabloid newspapers. They (tabloids newspapers) are not concerned about the wellbeing of the people. What is more important is community participation and co-operation with the police. In those areas where there structures are active there is no crime,” he said.

The City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith said the City of Cape Town does not provide funding to neighbourhood watches. “Our interventions are limited to training and the provision of equipment,” said Mr Smith.

He said the City has established a good working relationship with community policing structures at different levels and this includes equipping neighbourhood watch members once they have received training from the Department of Community Safety.

“We also rely heavily on organised community structures for intelligence about illegal activities in their areas. The City’s safety and security directorate does autonomous operations where it acts alone based on information received but we also work very closely with other role-players including neighbourhood watch organisations and the South African Police Service,” he said, adding that they value the input of neighbourhood watch organisations as they consider them a force multiplier.