Crime fighter talks tough

2011-09-26 00:00

IN a move expected to raise eyebrows, the new head of the KwaZulu-Natal Community Safety and Liaison Department, Ronnie Bhengu, has said he is committed to working with so-called vigilante groups and other voluntary community crime-fighting structures in a united front to root out crime within the province.

But Bhengu was quick to point out that the co-operation with these structures will be within the limits of the law to ensure they work with the police in order to avoid lawlessness in their operations.

“There are crime-fighting structures like Isiklebhe and Juluka Tsotsi, as well as street committees and village committees.

“We want to establish common thinking with these structures with the intention of isolating criminals and forming a united front against crime.

“We will organise workshops for these crime-fighting structures where they will be taught to respect the law, because it will make no sense should they claim to be fighting crime while practising crime by doing things like assaulting crime suspects.

“Through working with them we will not be encouraging vigilantism or lawlessness, but we will be channelling their efforts in the right direction as some of them are infiltrated with criminal elements who, for instance, confiscate drugs from one drug-dealer only to give it to another dealer,” Bhengu said.

He emphasised that members from these crime structures will not be immune from arrest by police if they commit crimes, “even though we will be working with them to fight crime”.

He condemned the recent death threats made against the provincial head of the Hawks, Major-General Johan Booysens, and said the department is calling for harsh sentences to be meted out to those found guilty of killing police officers.

Regarding the campaign to combat killings of police officers, he said he has committed his department to implementing resolutions taken during a recent KZN summit on Police killings.

To decentralise operations in this department and to ensure that the department is closer to the people, Bhengu said, it has established 13 districts across the province.

“We will adopt an integrated approach to fight crime and I appeal to people across the province to use those district offices to lodge their crime-related grievances,” Bhengu said.

He attributed the high level of violent crime in the province to the existence of arms from the era of political violence, and said something must be done to remove those arms from civilians.

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