Cops ‘can’t match criminals’

2015-05-09 08:54

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WITH the recent murders of three policemen in KwaZulu-Natal, the SAPS Union has called for extensive police training to combat the new breed of sophisticated criminals.

On Thursday last week, three policemen were killed in two separate incidents in KZN and another SAPS member was shot twice by AK47 wielding gunmen in Pietermaritzburg last Tuesday.

SAPS Union (Sapsu) secretary general Lawrence Tsajwa said the killings “sent shivers up the spines of policemen and women across the country” and that police were scared.

“These are opportunistic, sophisticated criminals who are quick and ambush the police.

“These criminals are sophisticated but the skills of police have stagnated, and their practical combat skills need to be updated so they are better equipped in these ambush situations against a gang of men with high-calibre weapons.”

Tsajwa said these high-calibre weapons were being used by criminals to gain the upper hand against police and the source of these weapons needed to be found and stopped immediately.

“Where are these weapons coming from and how are they getting into the country?

“We need intelligence on the ground, detecting the gaps which these illegal weapons and criminal elements keep coming in through.”

Police shadow minister DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said criminals were always looking for ways to gain the upper hand.

“They are tech-savvy, they have the best lawyers money can buy, they out-gun us and have better, faster vehicles,” she said.

“These criminals out-manoeuvre us because we are not boxing smart.

“We do not have the equipment we need. We need to give our police the technology they need, and our training needs to be world-class.”

She said there needed to be continuous training for police on the front line, and equipment needed to be updated in order to out-smart these sophisticated criminals.

IFP MP Blessed Gwala said police in South Africa could not compete with the high-calibre weapons criminals were using.

“Police need to be trained with sophisticated weapons and to train often,” he said.

“We urge the SAPS and the government to train police to combat these sophisticated criminals by training them often.

“We need to learn the methods and minds of these criminals and we need to upgrade our equipment. How can a policeman’s 9mm gun compete with an AK47?”

Police and Prison Civil Rights Union (Popcru) spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said although the SAPS needed to improve their efforts in keeping up with the changing methods of the sophisticated criminal, it was also up to the community to help the police where they could.

“Catching these criminals and recovering illegal firearms is a joint effort between the police and the community.

“The community need to be in total support of the police and help them often. Tip-offs on criminal elements come from the community.”

A Gun Free South Africa spokesperson said “everything and anything needs to be done to ensure police are in a position to fend off ambush attacks” and sophisticated criminals.

SAPS spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane said police were not sure where the illegal firearms were coming from but police were being trained on a “regular basis” in firearm training and how to protect themselves.

“A number of suspects have been arrested before and unlicensed firearms recovered, including rifles and pistols. We cannot say where these firearms are coming from but we need the community to give us information about people who are in possession of these illegal firearms and ammunition.”

He appealed to those who have licensed firearms to comply with the Firearms Act.

“They must not leave their firearms unattended. If the owner of a licensed firearm dies, the family must take the firearm to the police station for safekeeping while they are either selling it or applying for a firearm licence for a new owner,” said Zwane.

GUN Free SA’s Claire Taylor said illegal weapons being stolen and distributed around the country is a major issue.

“All illegal guns were once legal until they were diverted. Police need to look at where this occurs,” she said.

Taylor said that there were two major sources from where criminals obtained illegal firearms.

“Firearms are either lost or stolen from SAPS, SANDF and civilians and end up in the wrong hands.

“In 2003 there was a very successful operation to clamp down on illegal firearms called Operation Sethunya. It was a real effort to lock up illegal arms cache and we need a similar operation now.”

She said she suspected there were stockpiles of illegal weapons being stored across the country that were in the hands of criminals and there needed to be a full commitment by the police to lock up these stockpiles.

She said another issue was that civilians would often inherit firearms but had no licence.

These were either kept in the house illegally and stolen or handed in to police, where they were supposed to be destroyed but Taylor said sometimes they were not destroyed straight away.

“There has to be commitment from SAPS that the illegal firearms will be destroyed before they land in the wrong hands.”

Gun Free South Africa (GFSA) said data showed firearm loss and theft is the most significant source of illegal guns in SA.

LAST Sunday, Pietermaritzburg Public Order Police Task Team arrested two suspects in possession of 15 illegal firearms.

It is alleged that members received information regarding the suspects who were in possession of unlicensed firearms in Greytown.

Three 303 rifles, two AK47, one R5, one R1, one shotgun, three 9mm pistol, two revolvers and 32 assorted live rounds of ammunition were recovered.

KZN provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni applauded the members for excellent job of arresting the suspects and recovery of the firearms.

“We will continue to work hard till we get rid of all illegal firearms in our province,” she said

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