Girls ‘targeted’ by gangs

2017-05-30 06:00

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Ocean View parents have been warned to be extra cautious following reports that girls were being followed home after evening youth activities.

Some girls have also reportedly been approached for their contact details by alleged gang members, which has sparked fears of human trafficking in the community.

Community policing forum chairperson Kathy Cronje says: “It has been brought to our attention that many girls in Ocean View feel that they are being followed. We would like to encourage all parents to escort their children everywhere, and to know where their children are at all times.

“We would like to warn parents that not only are the human trafficking figures rising daily, but the increase in child rapes and murders in Cape Town is of great concern. Please look after your children,” she says.

However, Ocean View police spokesperson Sergeant Leon Fortuin says there is no link between local gang activity and human trafficking.

“Ocean View police have not received any complaints about human trafficking in the past year. We currently only have one missing person on record, but it is an elderly person who regularly goes missing.

“There is no link whatsoever between the gangs in Ocean View and human trafficking. Ocean View gangs concentrate on drugs and turf,” he explains.

Ocean View Care Centre co-founder Johann Kikilus says he is aware of girls being approached at a dance class in Ocean View.

Although he does not believe that incident is linked to human trafficking, he has cautioned parents that gang members often try to recruit young girls.

“It is the first time that such an incident has been brought to my attention where gangsters allegedly tried to recruit young women.

“We face a different kind of human trafficking. Young girls or women are sucked into a gang; usually raped or threatened. They are often high-risk cases to begin with – drug addicts or ‘girlfriends’ of gangsters or dealers. They usually are indebted to the gang, often due to free use of drugs or other material things.”

In cases of gang recruitment, prevention is far easier than cure, Kikilus says, and high-risk behaviour can often be spotted in girls as young as 10.

Young girls are often groomed to join gangs, he cautions, and in many cases they face problems or abuse at home.

“The young women who are targeted usually have very low self-esteem and are desperate for some type of attention in order to feel loved and accepted,” he says.

“I would say that our youth are at high risk at the moment. On any given day when I drive around communities in the Far South, I will find dozens of young girls and boys sitting on the pavements. We have an extremely high dropout rate and many of these teenagers walk straight into the arms of the drug dealers and gangs. This is a problem across Cape Town and the Cape Flats.”

The best way to avoid gang recruitment is to ensure children attend school until Grade 12, Kikillus ­believes.

“At the very least, they will be safe and looked after,” he says.

“Parents need to play a more active role and not expect everybody else to look after their kids.

“Lastly, I am always calling on religious bodies to lead the way. We have over ten thousand minors in the Far South. A very small fraction of these minors are part of a youth group. Young people need safe places where they talk about their problems at home or school or the struggles that they are facing.”

Fortuin adds that young girls are also the most at risk in being targeted for human trafficking, and parents should be aware of where their children are at all times.

Report suspicious behaviour to Ocean View police on 021 783 8300.

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